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 is back. We are cooking firehouse chili, three-alarm, McLean, Virginia, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. We have been making this chili, now weve got everything brought together, all the components are in. So, at this point, what we are going to do, we want to basically check this chili. I have got my sampling spoon as you can see. I want to give this a real nice stir, kind of pull things up from the bottom, and we want to get a good sampling of these flavors. Now, one of the first things I like to do is I like to give it a smell, and its starting to smell really good. Seems a little bit weak in color as far as the redness of it, Id like it a little bit more red. Smell-wise the cumin, its a little shy on cumin, remember I said, cumin is one of the key spices, if you are going to use in chili. So, lets give this a shot and see what weve got.
Its hot; its definitely got a bite to it from the beginning. So, this is definitely a good three-alarm chili. Like I said, its a little bit weak on chili powder and cumin, so we are going to go ahead and add that right now. Like I said, I kind of just throw some in, stir it around and give it a shot. That habanero is starting to open up my sinuses -- its a beautiful thing. We are going to go ahead and put a little bit more cumin in there, and I think we are done with our spices.
Give that a stir, incorporate that, oh yeah, that smells real good now, I wish you could smell it, but definitely those habaneros and jalapenos we put in there, just got a little bit of bite, the guys are going to like this one.
Its not too hot; at this point its not too hot. Its enough that when you bite it, its got a little bit, you can taste it, you can feel the little bit of tingle, but its not real super hot.
Now, cook time, this is not ready yet, although, we just tried it, its not ready. What we need to do is we need to let this sit, and I want it to bubble up real good. We put the beans in, typically I like to put the beans in right about 20 minutes before we serve, but for todays purposes I am going to ahead and put it in, we are going to turn this down and let it simmer. So, we are going to turn our heat way down to a real nice simmer, cover it up, we are going to put a lid on it, and this thing is going to sit and just simmer all day long.
Come back, stir it, this is one of the beauties of firehouse cooking, as we try to get something like this that we are actually going to start at the beginning of the day, get it going, put it on low heat that it can simmer all day, and then its going to cook slow all day. Remember, low and slow is better than high and fast. If you try to cook something high and fast, it just doesnt turn out at as well. We go low and slow, the flavors have a tendency to melt better, and it just ends up a better dish. So, right now, weve got a nice slow simmer going, we are going to let that go, and we are going to come back and we will review what we went through today.