Tom PapoutsisTom Papoutsis is a “Firehouse Chef” that currently holds the rank of Lieutenant with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. Tom’s experience in the Fire Service spans over 29 years, 19 of which have been with Fairfax County. The bulk of his firehouse culinary expertise has been practiced during his tenure there. He was a national finalist in the 2004 Tabasco Cook & Ladder Competition finishing in the top 10 of the nations Firehouse Chef’s, and traveled to New York City to compete in a cook off with his peers. He has also been placed on the “charity” auction block several times to prepare meals for the highest bidder. Tom likes to specialize in Italian and Greek cuisine being of the same heritage, but also enjoys preparing Asian and of course “Good Ole American” foods as well. He concentrates on entrées but also has a few hors d’oeuvres and dessert specialties as well, such as his versions of Bruschetta and Amaretto Cheesecake. For the past year he has been studying the practice of making homemade Italian deli meats and sausages. Tom’s motto: “It’s just cooking, not rocket science, take a chance…..you might like it!” Residing in Chambersburg, PA with his wife JoAnn, twins Jonathan & Katie and “Buddy” their Golden Retriever. Tom enjoys cycling, hunting, fishing, woodworking, raising his children and helping form today’s youth while volunteering with son Jonathan’s Cub Scout pack. Tom can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]
Lieutenant Tom Papoutsis: Lieutenant Tom Papoutsis back, we are cooking chili, firehouse chili.
How many alarms do we want to go today? Do we want to go two, three, how many we want? Three-alarm, we are going three-alarm chili from the back. If we are doing one-alarm chili, two-alarm chili I am going to use a jalapeno. Jalapeno is probably the most common; this little guy right here is a little cherry pepper. These are great, take these cut them, stuff them with some fontina cheese and some prosciutto wrapped in them and soaked with oil, fantastic, not a good chili pepper.
Jalapeno and this little guy here, it is little killer its called a Habanero. We are probably going to go three-four alarms on this chili; these guys are going to get heated up today. So, we are going to use our jalapeno, and I am going to go ahead and use this habanero. We dont need a whole lot, although, we are making a lot of chili, we dont want to use a whole lot, because then it will be inedible. So, what we are going to do is we are going to start out, we want to take the cap off, I am going to set the cap aside and I am going to split, I am going to go ahead and split my jalapeno right down in the middle. Now, here is the important part, if you look at the jalapeno, we have got the seeds. Everybody says, the seeds are where the heat is, thats not true. This web right here, you see this white part, this thin piece right here, this is where the heat is. If you do not want your -- you want the flavor of the pepper, but you dont want all the heat, then you are going to take this portion out. To do that what we can do is just basically peel it out; we are going to take seeds and all, and then you can take your knife; actually I am going to go ahead and split this, because this is going to make it a little easier.
Get the seeds out of there and then you can actually take your knife and just cut it, just cut it right out of there, just like that, watch your fingers, there we go. We will give it a scrape there. A lot of that heat is there, not in here.
So, thats how we are going to keep our chili so that its not super-hot, because all of the heat in the pepper, remember, the most of the heat is in this white web material on the inside. Same holds true for the habanero. When we do the habanero we are going to cut the cap off the same way, and if you want to you can actually trim that back, and I can take and just pull that off of there, there we go, we are going to use that, same holds true for this. If you want to take your finger, pop your finger in there; pull the seeds out, just like that.
Now, there is not a whole lot of web in there, I am going to cut this open, and let you see it. You can see here in what I have pulled out, this little bit of red is what we were talking about here with the jalapeno, but if you cut this open, you dont have near as much as what you did in jalapeno as you do in habanero. But remember, this is the hotter of the two. So, we are only going to use one of those, its going to be hot, but what I will do is I am going to go ahead and strip this thing down, and we are going to do this for both of them. We are just going to chop these, the same way that we did all of the other peppers.
So, we will just go ahead and chop these up, get them into little pieces, this one has given me a little bit of a hard time, but thats alright.
Now, the biggest thing is, once you do this, and you can see I am not wearing gloves. If I was a smart man, I had gone over and got on the medic unit and I have got myself a pair of gloves and wed be okay, but I didnt do that.
So, the big thing is, do not touch your eyes, dont touch your mucous membranes, if you have any cuts on your hands, its going to hurt. So, if there is any question, wear a pair of gloves, wear some type of barrier to keep between the pepper in your hands and your skin, but absolutely positively dont touch your eyes after you do this.