Combining Meat, Vegetables, and Spices for Chili

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 19,128
    Firehouse chef Tom Papoutsis combines the meat, veggies, and spices for the chili.

    Tom Papoutsis

    Tom 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 is back, we are cooking firehouse chili in McLean, Virginia at Fire Station 1, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.

    At this point, as you can see we have our onions are nice and clear. We have actually softened up those green peppers, the garlic in there, salt and peppers, the flavors have kind of started to all melt in this pan. We have our ground beef, its nice and brown at this point; we are going to kind of give this a good stir. We are going to start and incorporate things here; this is where our chili starts to come together. What we are going to do, we are going to go ahead and we are going to take our green peppers and onions and garlic, and we are going to go ahead and we are going to just dump that right in there.

    So, all this is going into this chili, there we go, looking good. Let me just get my -- I like using my spatula, spatula works a really well. These are big, heavy pans too so, kind of letting that rest on there, so its working real good, there we go.

    We have got that in, we are going to stir these around, we are going to mix together all of this onion, green pepper and garlic and ground beef and we got that started. We have cut the heat back to about a medium-high at this point. We dont want it too hot, because we have already browned the meat, we dont want things starting to burn. Now, we are going to start introducing our spices. Biggest things we are going to start with this point chili powder.

    Again, what we are going to do, we are going to add our chili powder and its going to take quite a bit of chili powder because you want this to actually -- we have a nice red color, if we are making our firehouse chili of course, if we are making green chili we dont want to use too much of this, but we are going to start out with that, we probably have a good probably at least four tablespoons, three-four tablespoons in there. We are going to go ahead and incorporate that and mix that around, and the smells are starting to come together. I wish you could be here to smell this, because this is where the chili really starts to take form.

    So, we have got that working there. You can see things are starting to come together, we have got our onion, green peppers, garlic and we just put the chili power in there, its starting to take a little bit of color. We are going to go ahead and put this back on and we are going to add some paprika.

    Next spice is going to be paprika. I am actually just going to take the lid off of this, and we are going to go probably a good another three-four, two-three, three-four tablespoons. I kind of go by smell, I like to use a lot of my olfactory senses because thats what kind of tells me what's going on and what I am making. So, we are going to mix that in. You can see, we add that in, we start to get more of that color coming into it. Starts to get a nice reddish brown color, and its starting to take shape, here we go.

    Next spice we are going to add, we are going to go with the cumin. Cumin is the heart of the chili. You smell that cumin and that is what gives chili its flavor, you got to have cumin if you are going to make good chili. So, we are going to put probably about two, Id say one-and-a-half to two tablespoons in there. This is a full jar and I am probably going to use about half a jar and then Ill check it and well see where we come from there as to whether it needs more or not.

    So, as you can see, there is our cumin, we laid in there and now we are going to incorporate that and mix that in, mix it around. Looking good, oh, the smell is starting to get -- thats chili, its starting to turn into chili right now. So, we are going to let this sit.

    Next step, I am going to kick the heat up, just a little bit, its not quite bubbling away I want. Now, we are going to add our tomatoes, very simple, take our tomatoes, in they go. We are going to mix those around, and as you can hear we are in the firehouse, things are little busy, weve got the phone ringing, weve got things going on, units are out, running calls. I am in here cooking for these guys; they are going to love this tonight.

    So, as you can see, we are going to mix this around, get all these tomatoes incorporated, these things are going to disappear, what's going to happen we are going to cook this, and its going to just disappear in there. So, there is where we are at right now.

    Now, me personally Id like to give it a smell. Its smelling pretty good, but I can tell it needs a little bit more chili powder and a little bit more cumin, and when we come back we are going to check it again. We are going to let it bubble up a little bit here, we will check it again, and then we are going to add some other things when we come back.