“Chow” is a big thing in a firehouse, mostly because a group of hungry firefighters can put away a lot of food. And cooking in the firehouse doesn’t just require quantity. Quality matters too and that means good recipes.
In the first of our series on the best firehouse cooking, we chow down with the guys from Anaheim Fire & Rescue Station 6 and Firefighter/Paramedic Frankie Mora’s chile rellenos. We also chatted with Mora about his life and career as a firefighter.
Mora, a 14-year veteran of Anaheim Fire & Rescue, became a father at 17 and was forced to grow up fast. He spent his senior year homeschooling himself and raising his daughter. At the same time, he pondered becoming either a teacher or firefighter. After taking his first class at Mt. San Antonio College, he was hooked.
“Being able to help others, not having the same 9-to-5 schedule, and being able to stay fit for a living was all I needed to hear,” he says.
He’s always found chow time at the station therapeutic. “We use that time to tell stories, catch up on family news, and laugh.”
There are, of course, the bad days. “One day, we ran a call just before dinner that ended up being a vehicle vs. pedestrians. There was a child fatality,” he says. “The whole crew just sat around the dinner table, pushing our food around. Nobody ate. We barely even spoke that night.”
But the highlights for Mora are the holidays. The families of the firefighters all gather at the station in the afternoon.
“Getting to know each other’s family in person makes my career that much greater,” he says. “It’s one thing to talk about them amongst each other, but it’s a totally different experience seeing them in person. I signed up knowing that I am willing to give my life up for any human being, but it’s an honor knowing that I could do the same for any of my fire family brothers and sisters.”
Mora was raised in a house where his parents worked together in their own business. Seeing how hard his parents worked taught him and his siblings “to step up and help out around the house.” The boys did all the yard work, and Mora only began to cook when he became a dad. He’s learned a lot more about that since becoming a firefighter.
Mora says when he started, “a rookie did everything.” So, when it came time to cook for the house — Station 6 has 12 mouths to feed on any given shift — Mora called his mom. He asked her for the recipe to her chile rellenos, a recipe passed down from her mother.
“I remember her making it, but never knew how she did it,” Mora says. “But over the phone Mom walked me through it.”
The recipe (feeds 12):
*30 poblano chiles
*4 10-ounce packages of Cotija cheese
*10 roma tomatoes
*3 white onions
*3/4 cup of chicken bouillon
*8-ounce can of tomato sauce
*1 package of toothpicks
Place chiles on a cookie sheet and roast chiles until blackened.
Put the roasted chiles in a plastic bag for 5 minutes to steam and loosen the skin.
Blend tomatoes and chopped onions together. Mix with tomato sauce and chicken bouillon and boil in a sauce pan.
Wet hands with cold water and peel chiles while still hot.
Cut off top of chile and remove seeds and membrane.
Slice cheese and put one slice into each chile.
Thread toothpick through top of chile to close top and contain cheese for cooking.
Separate yoke from eggs and beat egg whites from all 18 eggs until foamy.
Fill skillet half full of vegetable oil or canola oil and heat until hot.
Coat chile in flour and dip in whipped egg whites and place in skillet.
Fry until batter is slightly brown on each side.
Place fried chiles in baking pans and ladle red sauce over the top.
Place pans in oven for approximately 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until sauce is boiling.
“Call chow” and serve with beans and Spanish rice.