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By Deborah Dove
Firefighter/paramedic Greg Fenn, who joined the Allen Fire Department and the C shift at Station 3 just three months ago after spending three and a half years working in Iraq, is already well on his way to turning their shift into the gourmands of the department.
"My first shift (here) we had corn dogs, tator tots and frozen pizza," he says with mock disdain. "If I’m going to eat, I want to eat well. I try to mix flavors." He adds that some of the spices he likes to use include lemon, lime, dill seed, fennel and whole allspice.
Captain Brett Bowland, an eleven-year veteran of the department who attended fire academy with Fenn agrees. "He puts TLC in his food," he says.
Since Fenn’s arrival, the firefighters have enjoyed (and raved about) his Chicken Cordon Bleu, salmon and steak. However, despite the afore-mentioned corn dog meal, the firefighters on this shift have always eaten well. Captain Bowland, who used to do all of the cooking, has quite a few recipes in his repertoire that he picked up working as a prep cook in college at the Black Eyed Pea and Chili’s. He also has a knack for duplicating recipes he enjoys at restaurants, such as his Farfalle, a pasta dish inspired by the Cheesecake Factory, which he makes with chicken, bacon (plus a teaspoon of bacon grease), tomatoes, black olives and Alfredo sauce.
"I make a great spinach manicotti," he adds. "But you can’t make it and catch a call." The guys give a collective groan as they remember the soggy noodles they came back to. Unfortunately, that is the nature of their business.
Firefighter/Paramedic CJ Alexander, who did most of the cooking before Greg Fenn began sharing kitchen duties, also keeps the firefighters well fed with a variety of recipes. "Like what?" I ask.
"Anything a day care would have," quips Captain Bowland. There is much laughter as the guys rib Alexander about everything from his cooking to his preoccupation with personal hygiene ("He’s the station metro sexual," Bowland jokes), but in the next instant the guys rave about his new pizza recipe, which Captain Bowland admits he took home and passed off as his own, impressing his wife and three kids.
"That’s what firemen do," says Alexander. He adds that when firemen sub on another shift, they’re not above watching what’s cooking in the kitchen, asking a few questions, and then passing it off as their own recipe on their regular shift.
Although Engineer Chris DeBord maintains, "The rest of us are critics," just about all of the firefighters have one or two specialties. DeBord has a tasty lasagna (see recipe below), and FTO Jason Thornton, who recently transferred to Station 3 from the Central Station, had made taco burgers the day I visited the station and shared his homemade Mac and cheese recipe. Jack Dwyer, who was on vacation at the time, is reported the sides guy and sous chef. The remaining firefighter/paramedic on the shift, Clifton Jones, wasn’t there to defend himself against the other firefighter’s claims that the only thing he cooks is frozen pizza, and he has to have help with that.
However, despite the good-natured joking, I am struck by the camaraderie the firefighters of 3C share. Although they joke and give each other a hard time, these are guys who wrapped yellow ribbons around the trees at the station when Engineer Chris DeBord served a seven month tour of duty in Iraq. They are also the guys who mowed his yard each week, took care of his pool ("We almost blew it up," jokes Bowland) and made sure his wife, who had a baby the week before Chris was deployed, was taken care of.
"This is my extended family," DeBord says simply.
"We’re brothers," explains Captain Bowland. "And together, we’re pretty strong."
Captain Bowland’s Potato Cheese Soup
5 med. potatoes, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1 stick of butter or margarine
4 Tbs. seasoned salt or Tony’s Creole seasoning
4 Tbs. black pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 quart half and half
1 small block of Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
1/3 c. cornstarch
2 c. of water
Sauté vegetables salts and pepper in butter or margarine until potatoes are tender. Add Velveeta to half and half and heat on low heat, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted.
Mix cornstarch into water. Add mixture to cheese mixture and stir until thickened. Add vegetable mixture. Serve in a bowl topped with shredded cheddar cheese and bacon bits.
Chris DeBord’s Lasagna
*This recipe serves a crowd—either a large roasting pan or two smaller ones
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 med. onion, finely chopped
1 jar Newman’s marinara (plus 1/2 cup water swished around and added to sauce)
2 cans Italian diced tomatoes
2 cans Italian tomato paste
1 tsp. each basil, oregano and thyme
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 lbs. shredded mozzarella
1 large plus 1 small container of cottage cheese
Cook ground beef, sausage and onion until done. Drain. Mix well with marinara, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, the herbs and garlic.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions (do not use the no boil kind). Rinse in the pan with cold water until cool enough to touch (do not drain). When assembling, pull out a noodle and let water drain off slightly before laying in pan.
Layer with noodles first, then meat sauce, then mozzarella, then cottage cheese. Sprinkle with a bit of parmesan cheese. Repeat layer. Add one more layer of noodles, more meat sauce and a final dusting of mozzarella (no cottage cheese on the final layer). Sprinkle with a little extra basil, oregano and black pepper. Top with a bit of Parmesan.
Bake at 350º until brown and bubbly. The time depends on the size (a 17x10 roaster takes approximately an hour and 20 minutes).
Greg Fenn’s Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 double chicken breasts (about 7-oz. each), skinless and boneless
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. minced garlic
8 thin slices deli smoked ham
8 thin slices deli turkey
16 thin slices Pepper Jack cheese
1 c. Italian bread crumbs
1/2 stick of butter
8 individual foil baking pan
Preheat oven to 350º. Put the chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Take care not to pound too hard because the meat may tear or create holes. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Lay 1 slice of cheese on each breast, followed by 1 slice of ham, and 1 slice turkey; 2 more of cheese leaving a 1/2-inch margin on all sides to help seal the roll. Tuck in the sides of the breast and roll up tight like a jellyroll. Secure roll with toothpick. Pour breadcrumbs on a plate. Beat together the eggs, and then dip the chicken in the egg mixture. Gently coat the chicken by rolling in bread crumbs mixture. Carefully transfer the roulades to the individual baking pans. Add a pat of butter to each pan and bake for 20 minutes until browned and cooked through.
CJ Alexander’s Pizza
Grilled chicken (seasoned with garlic powder, onion and chipotle), chopped
Sliced black olives
1 can refrigerated pizza dough
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 jar of barbecue sauce.
Mix spaghetti sauce and barbecue sauce. Unroll pizza dough and place on baking sheet. Spread sauce over dough. Add chicken, onion, mushrooms and olives. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake.