Local firefighter discloses cooking secrets
While many Americans are able to take off from work to spend Thanksgiving with their friends and families, there are many others who cannot. Those in the service and retail industries often must work on Thanksgiving. So too must those workers who respond to emergencies, like policemen and firefighters.
The firefighters in the Park City Fire District (PCFD) are no exception. “They’re fun,” said Sean Briley of the PCFD. “There are some guys that actually like to work here on Thanksgiving,” he added.
Briley was off this Thanksgiving and said “the single guys will trade shifts with the guys who have families.” For those with family nearby that have to work, the families often convene at the fire stations and celebrate there.
Tom Fabian, who has been with the PCFD for 13 years, was the head chef at Fire Station 25 near Pinebrook this Thanksgiving. He cooked for 13 people this year (including family that came to the station) – up from the nine people he cooked for at another fire house last year.
Strategy is key for Fabian. Since firefighters on duty at the station can be called out to an emergency at any time, he tries to get as many dishes done early as possible. Luckily, when there are friends and family at the station, someone is around to tend to the turkey if the firefighters have to run out. That’s not usually the case.
“We’ve eaten our fair share of dry, overcooked meat,” Fabian said. “I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve put on a nice filet or something on the grill and we have to run away. You shut the grill off, you know it still continues to cook and you’re gone an hour. Filets aren’t really meant to be cooked an hour.”
“Last year I did a prime rib,” Fabian said, before sharing his fool-proof technique: Coat with salt and pepper, garlic, and Spade L Ranch-type seasoning; sear on all sides; cook at 500 degrees for 15 minutes, then 350 degrees for 3 to 4 hours.
“This year I’m not cooking a turkey, I’m just doing sides,” he said.
“I often take my sides off the Internet and then turn them into mine by putting some different spices in them.” He added, somewhat sheepishly, “this year I’m using some Martha Stewart innovations.”"I’m cooking up a whipped sweet potatoes with caramelized apple on top and I’m also doing a green beans with a caramelized onion and fresh tarragon,” he said.
“Sweet potatoes are good, they’re just kind of drab by themselves so with the caramelized apple… pretty good,” Fabian said. “And then I’m going to kick it up a notch with some cayenne pepper. And then the green beans, I’ll make that my own by putting in some Sriracha and tarragon. So I don’t follow the recipes per se, but I just get a good general idea from it.”
Briley and Fabian both noted that at Thanksgiving and Christmas, the local firefighter’s association provides grocery gift cards to the firefighters that have to work those days.
“A misconception is that the public buys us our dinners,” Fabian explained, “but the reality is we pay for our own dinners every day on shift and Thanksgiving is kind of a special occasion.
Jeff Pauline, EMT, checks in on the Pinebrook Station 35's Thanksgiving turkey. (Alan Maguire/Park Record)