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]
Hi. I'm Tom Popatis. Ive been a firehouse chef for a lot of years, and actually, I was a 2004 finalist in a Tabasco Cook & Ladder Competition held in New York City which is a cooking competition for firefighters nationally. Grilled sandwiches are pretty common in a firehouse, but also at your home. We are going to show you some tips or I am going to show you some tips today as to how you can do these maybe a little better, maybe put a little tweak on, but remember, we are in a kitchen, we have got burners that are hot, we have knives that are sharp. So, please remember, lets be safe. If you are using gas remember to keep your cooking stuff as far as your hot pads and towels away from the flame, watch your hair, if you have long hair, which I dont have that problem, but please, number one is safety in the kitchen. So, lets get started.
Right now, we are going to do a Classic Reuben. This is one of those sandwiches you get it right or you dont get it right, but very simple. Weve got just a few simple components. Ive got seeded rye bread, Ive got some good Swiss cheese -- go to the deli, get them to cut you some good Swiss Cheese, Ive got some imported corned beef and, of course, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.
So, how we are going to start this out, we are going to turn on heat up about medium high. I want to start out by putting the sandwich together, its kind easy. I will set this aside for now. What we are going to do is we are going to take our butter and what I actually want to do is start buttering our bread. So, we are going to butter the outsides of our bread. Heres your two pieces of bread.
We are going to take into this side and this side. So, we are going to start on this side, put a good coat of butter on there just like that. My thing is I like to get all of holes filled on it, thats something I have always done, kind of crazy like that. But we are going to put that down and then we are going to flip this one over, get a little bit more butter and we are going go ahead and butter this side. It is essentially what we are doing here is same as making a grilled cheese sandwich except for were just adding these ingredients in here.
So, we are going to set this one aside over here. Now, what I am going to do? I am going to go ahead, Ive got my corned beef here. I am going to put my corned beef -- wow -- that got a little bit kind of falling apart on me, so Ill take my spatula, slide in underneath there and we are going to slide our corned beef onto there. It kind of got messy on me. Anyway, a lot of times what I will do, corned beef can kind of get like this; what Ill do when I make -- especially, when I am at work making for the guys at the firehouse, what I do is Ill get a corned beef brisket. I take a corned beef brisket and Ill bake it and then once I bake the brisket, Ill take it out, slice it and thats typically how we have our Reubens at the fire station.
So, now what we are going to do, I am going to go ahead and take -- of course, wash my hands up and everything, were good as far as that goes. I am going to take some sauerkraut, little bit sauerkraut, were going to put some sauerkraut in here like this, now mind you. We got our burner on, Ill go ahead and heat my pan up a little bit, but put as much on as you want; if you like a lot, put a lot on; if you dont just put a little bit on. I kind of like mine loaded up. So, we are going put are our sauerkraut on and here we go, put a nice, generous portion of sauerkraut on.
Now, let me clean my hands off here real quick. Ive got some Thousand Island dressing. Now remember, weve got corned beef, weve got sauerkraut, were going to put just a little bit a Thousand Island dressing on, just like that, and then our Swiss cheese goes on top of that. Now, I am going to use a nice -- and this is going to be one of those outstanding sandwiches. There we go. Nice amount of cheese, now we are going to take this top, put the top on like that. I am going to take my spatula. I want to give it a rinse here real quick, there we go. Were going to come in underneath, pick it up and put it on there.
Now, we dont want to go too high on our heat. If we go too high this sandwich is going to burn, we are not going to get our cheese melt, its not going to turn out all that well. One of those little things that we do at the fire station when we make these is Ill make these sandwiches and well have them made up and then put them in the oven because we cant make as many as we need for everybody to eat all at once.
So, well put them in the oven and then everything really melts and gets really good, but if youre making one for yourself just make sure you get that nice sizzle going as far as your butter on your bread is concerned. Were going to let that heat up for a couple of minutes and then we are going to flip it over and once we get that flip then we will check the other side well flip it back and forth a couple of times until we feel that it is done and our cheese is melt real good for us.