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, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue back, we are making firehouse chili. We are going to start out at this point, we are going to saut our vegetables and we are also going to start browning our meat.
To saut our vegetables, what you are going to start first. We are going to start out on a high heat, I am using a well-seasoned, this is a very well-seasoned cast iron skillet. You can use a saut pan, but once you get one of these cast iron skillet seasoned real well, nothing really sticks to it. So, its a pretty big size and thats what we use in a firehouse. So, we are going to start out a little bit of olive oil, we are going to put just a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in there. Let that heat up a little bit, itd be good to go, and we have our onions and green peppers. We are going to add in our onions and green peppers and we are going to start softening these.
We want these, you can see there is a lot, because we are making -- like I said, we are making a big batch of chili; this is going to feed about 12-14 hungry firefighters. So, these guys when they eat, they eat pretty good; but they are going to have some leftovers. So, we are going to have quite a quantity here that weve got to deal with. So, can hear that starting to move for us, get rid of this, very good.
The other thing we are going to add in it at this point, we are going to go ahead and put our garlic in with it as well. So, this is the three bell peppers, and actually we use two onions in this. I kept one onion back I had three, we kept one back for garnish at the end, we will show you what thats all about.
This is about five or six good size cloves of garlic. Weve got our garlic going, and at this point, I am going to get things moving. You can see these things are starting to soften up on the bottom already, thats what we want; we want to get this stuff to the point where the onions get nice and translucent. That will make them real good, softens them up so they cook a little bit faster, a little bit better in our chili.
Now, we are going to add some salt. Typically, I dont measure anything, my thing is, its Kitchen Chemistry, we dont have to be -- its not an exact science try to get it as close as you can. If you want to use your hand, youve got about, oh, lets say a little bit better than a tablespoon, tablespoon-and-a-half. I will put that in and then I kind of gage it, I look at it and its like, yeah, okay, thats enough right there.
Its all to taste, after you get to doing it for a while, you kind of get a feel as to how much you use, but if you want to learn, some of the best cooks do not measure anything, they know their spices. I like to tell people go through your spice cabinet and get used to what they are, open them up, smell them, and if its a strong spice its going to give strong flavor, if its a mild spice so stronger use less, mild you use more. So, we are going to look that work a little bit, we are going to bring in our pepper. Again, I am just going to sprinkle it overtop, you can see that I am not using a whole lot, but I am getting a good coverage overtop, thats probably good about right there.
So you can see how its not like as big pile of pepper, its a little bit of pepper spread out over in area, but we probably have maybe a teaspoon to two teaspoons of pepper in there, and we are going to start moving this around. Okay, so we are going to saut this, get this working. You can see that is starting to work real nice for us, we are going to let that go. At this point, I am going to start on the meat, we are going to go ahead, we are going to turn our burner up. I am going to start this at high heat as well. We are going to use a little bit of our olive oil. I am just using Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Personally, I prefer the Extra Virgin, because I like the flavor. Its got that full body flavor of the olive and I really like it. So we are going to go ahead, and add our meat in. Now remember this is a big batch, this is like nine pounds of meat right here. So we are going to go ahead and get that started and drop it in there. Since we get all this meat in, come on, there we go. Okay, there we go, we will get that started. Okay, you can see, you are probably want to why is this guy using a spatula and not a spoon. A lot of times, I like using spatula to do stuff like this, because it actually I can scrape the bottom better, if there was anything sticking I could kind of move it around, so that works good. In here, we are probably going to go ahead and use a spoon, I need to get a hot pad, and I am going to turn this around. I got to watch myself, and we are going to start moving this around in here, because its start browning, its going to start browning up pretty quick. The other thing I want to do is I am going to start that out on high, but we are going to end up moving that to a medium high heat, so that we dont burn it. The onions and green peppers and garlic are sauting up very nicely. You can see how they are starting to be translucent. So we are going to let these go for a couple of minutes, and we are going to start working this meat browning it up, get it good brown, get this done, and then we are going to come back and we are going to start adding our spices in.