Health and Wellness
Recipe Rescue: Bond over meal prep
We have all heard the adage: a family that cooks together, stays together. As a firehouse chef for 16 years, an avid cook at home and a lover of all things food, I couldn’t agree more with this motto. There is something about meal time that brings people together. At home, meals are opportunities for family members to catch up with each other during busy days, to sit and talk without distraction and to reconnect. My wife Andrea and I value every opportunity and make it a priority to sit and enjoy meal time with our children. We love to cook together and we love to eat our creations together. This simple philosophy has built a strong and very happy family, and the reward is evident in our family’s bond.
The same philosophy holds true in our fire houses. In the fire service, we pride ourselves on teamwork and unity, whether it is at an emergency scene, community event or in and around our stations. Eating and cooking is part of our firefighter culture and I have seen the immense team-building benefits that result from a platoon cooking together. When all hands are involved in the preparation of a meal, members can easily bond and feel as though they are part of a team. As with a family at home, taking the time to cook, eat and reconnect over a good meal will do your platoon a world of good.
To get the biggest rewards out of cooking together you need to get your family or platoon present and involved in the kitchen, whether it is in the prep, chopping or dicing, standing by a pot stirring or mixing, or even on clean-up duty. My most-requested recipes at the fire house and at home all have one common ingredient: they are dishes that are made together. At my fire house perhaps the most-requested meal is my jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos (see recipe). This is one of my favourite meals to make and eat as well. What makes these tacos so special is, of course, the super flavourful crispy-coated fish, but now, after years of making this dish, everyone on my platoon has a hand in making a component. One member makes the pico de gallo, one makes the avocado lime crema, another makes the slaw and Sriracha aioli while a few of us coat and cook the fish. With everyone in the kitchen, we talk, laugh, joke and create something special together, and every member appreciates the process and the final product.
My platoon cooks and eats together at every opportunity on shift and I know this, in part, contributes to our strong team bond. At home the same benefits apply. During busy weeknights, my family keeps things simple, yet still takes the time to cook and eat together. Our recipe for mushroom and burrata lasagnette (see recipe) is well worth the minimal effort required. As I prepare the lasagnette, my wife is by my side helping to chop and prep a simple salad (see recipe). Our children share our passion for cooking and are learning as I did as a young boy, watching and helping my family cook. Even the smallest kitchen tasks, such as cracking eggs, measuring flour, mixing and stirring, are exciting and fun for children. Weekends and breakfast are perfect opportunities to create something special with the kids. Be patient, be prepared for a little more of a mess and guide them along the way and you will find kids make excellent sous chefs. My recipe for cheesecake pancakes is just right for the little chefs of the family to lend a hand and make something they will love to eat.
I encourage everyone to embrace the philosophy of families that cook together, stay together, both in your homes and fire houses. Soon the philosophy becomes habit and a way of life. Building and strengthening relationships and growing a solid family and team has never been easier, or more delicious!
Jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos
- 1 kg (2 lbs) fresh haddock fillets or any mild whitefish
- 1 cup flour, seasoned with Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and Old Bay seasoning
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2 bags jalapeño kettle chips, crushed
- Canola or peanut oil
- Corn tortillas
- Spicy avocado lime crema (recipe follows)
- Pico de gallo (recipe follows)
- Sriracha aioli (recipe follows)
- 1/4 head of cabbage, finely shredded
2. Set up a breading station by having a bowl for each the seasoned flour, beaten eggs and crushed kettle chips. Dust the fish pieces lightly with seasoned flour. Then dip fish into beaten eggs, then toss in the crushed kettle chips pushing down on them to make them stick. Repeat with process with the remaining fish. When your oil is hot enough, fry fish for a couple of minutes per side or until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
3. When ready to serve heat the corn tortillas as per package directions. Spread the avocado lime crema on a tortilla and place fried fish on top. Add shredded cabbage and garnish with pico de gallo and Sriracha aioli. Enjoy!
Spicy avocado lime crema
- 4 avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped
- 2 cups sour cream
- 1 lime and zest
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, chopped
- A few drops of green Tabasco sauce
- A handful of cilantro, chopped
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Pico de gallo
- 2 tomatoes, seeded, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 jalapeño, seeded, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 red onion, minced
- 1 lime, juiced
- A handful of cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 cup good-quality mayonnaise
- 3 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
- 1 tbsp grated garlic
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Mushroom and burrata lasagnette
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing
- 1½ pounds mixed mushrooms (such as chanterelle, crimini, and oyster), cut into bite-size pieces
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup ricotta
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 6 fresh pasta sheets (about 7x5 inches) or 12 dried lasagna noodles
- 8 ounces burrata or fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 6 large fresh basil leaves
2. Combine ricotta, cream and oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
3. Working in batches, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 30 seconds. (If using dried noodles, cook until al dente.) Transfer noodles to a large-rimmed baking sheet as you go, brushing with oil and overlapping as needed.
4. Spread a thin layer of ricotta mixture in a small coquette or ramekin and top with a pasta sheet (if using dried, use two noodles side by side). Spread a large spoonful of ricotta mixture over pasta, scatter some mushrooms over, then add a piece of burrata. Top evenly with some Parmesan and one basil leaf.
5. Repeat layering process (starting with noodles and ending with basil) a few more times; finish with the last of the Parmesan and a grind or two of pepper.
6. Cover lasagnette with foil and bake until warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool at least five minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Sweet and salty fall harvest salad
For the salad:
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 bunch of kale or other dark leafy greens, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped (about 8 cups)
- 1 cup blue cheese, cubed
- 1 large apple, cored and roughly chopped
- ½ cup dried cherries
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Pinch kosher salt
2. While the squash roasts, make the candied pecan clusters. Have a baking sheet with parchment paper ready and set aside. Heat the butter and brown sugar over medium heat in a medium non-stick pan until bubbling. Toss the pecans into the butter-sugar mixture until coated. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar turns a dark amber colour. Pour the pecans out onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spread them out with a rubber spatula. Allow them to cool completely before breaking them up into clusters.
3. Make the vinaigrette by whisking the maple syrup, 1/4 cup olive oil, mustard, vinegar and salt together in a medium bowl or shake it all together in a mason jar. Whisk in additional olive oil in small increments up to 1/3 cup total until you reach your desired dressing consistency.
4. In a large bowl, toss the kale with the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil until the kale turns bright green and glossy, about two to three minutes.
5. Top the kale with the squash, blue cheese, apples, cranberries, and pecan clusters. Drizzle the maple vinaigrette over the top of the salad before serving while the squash is still warm. Enjoy!
Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered bacon
- 1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 2 tbsp strawberry jam
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 tbsp for cooking
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 2 cups chopped frozen cheesecake
- 1 tbsp butter
- Butter, confectioners' sugar or whipped cream, for topping (optional)
- Maple peppered bacon (directions below)
2. Pulse the flour, buttermilk, egg, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheesecake pieces, keeping them whole.
3. Melt the butter and the oil in a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Working in batches, pour about 1/4 cup batter into the skillet for each pancake. Cook until bubbly on top, about four minutes, then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown, about two more minutes. Transfer the finished pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Serve the pancakes topped with the strawberry sauce, and top with butter, confectioners' sugar or whipped cream, if you wish.
4. Maple peppered bacon: Position wire racks on two rimmed baking sheets. Lay one pound bacon in a single layer on the racks and bake seven minutes at 375 F. Brushing bacon with maple syrup and continue baking until caramelized, about 25 minutes, flipping, brushing with syrup and seasoning with pepper every five minutes. Let cool five minutes on the racks. Enjoy with the pancakes!
Patrick Mathieu is an acting captain at Waterloo Fire Rescue in Ontario. He was recently featured in Food Network’s Chopped Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org @StationHouseCCo