Showing posts with label Captain Jim Colston. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Captain Jim Colston. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why They Carry 343 Flags: A Special Firehouse Recipe from Cleo Coyle

If you come to New York City on St. Patrick's Day, this is what you'll see: members of the FDNY carrying 343 flags in the annual parade. Why 343? Because 11 years ago on this day, 343 members of New York City's Fire Department responded to their last alarm; 343 ran in while others rushed out; 343 left for work that morning and never came home.

Other heroes gave their lives that day, too, including first responding police officers, paramedics, bystanders, and office workers. More people perished on the hijacked planes; in the wreckage at the Pentagon; and a field in Pennsylvania.

We honor them today, pausing to remember not only how they died, but how they lived.

A recipe might seem a trivial thing today, but below is a very special recipe from a working firehouse captain, one of an army of men and women across our nation who put their lives on the line for others, if necessary, every day. 

This "Fast Truck Chicken" recipe first appeared in a cookbook that was sold a few years ago to raise money for a firefighter's fund named in honor of Terry Farrell, one of those 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. I bought a number of copies, and I'm happy to share one of the delicious recipes in that cookbook with you today.

If that book were still available, I'd share a link for purchasing it and give one away this week. Unfortunately, it's no longer in print, but I have another idea to help raise money in memory of those 343.


The FDNY runs a store called The Fire Zone to earn funds for its non-profit Foundation. 

I was happy to make a contribution in the form of a little comment giveaway on this post. The prize was the T-shirt pictured left. If you would like to buy one for yourself, I'm happy to share this link to the official store of our amazing New York City Fire Department.

And now for today's recipe...

Fast Truck (Firehouse)
Chicken Casserole

Today's recipe is adapted from one by Captain Jim Colston of the San Marcos Firefighters, San Marcos, California

From Captain Colston: "When I first started as a firefighter, I still lived at home, like a lot of us firefighters did when we started out, so I could only cook things from a box. This is a real quick meal that we created from leftovers one night when we didn’t have a lot to spend. It’s a fast meal to make, which is nice when you’re busy at the station."

From Cleo: The recipe that follows is my adaption of the captain's recipe. Why did I have to "adapt" it? Because the captain's original portions were huge! The funny thing is, he claimed his original recipe would "Serve 4." Oh, sure, 4 firefighters maybe. For us mortals, however, the amounts were more like serves 12. I halved it and got a serving of 6, added a bit more detail, including oven temperatures and time, a tweak on the ingredients for better flavor, and quickie directions on cooking chicken breasts, if needed.

This is an especially useful recipe for leftover chicken and turkey. (You might want to hold on to this one for your Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing leftovers.) I hope you enjoy it as much as Marc and I do.

Fast Truck Firehouse
Chicken Casserole

Serves 6


2 whole chicken breasts, chopped (about 2 pounds or 4 cups cooked, chopped chicken; you can also use turkey)

1 12-ounce box of chicken or turkey stuffing (or 6 cups of leftover stuffing)

1 14-ounce can of chicken broth or stock

1-2 tablespoons butter or margarine

4 slices cooked ham, quartered (or six slices of round breakfast ham or
Canadian bacon)

8 ounces pepper jack cheese (deli slices or block cheese)*

*Note: If you don't care for spicy flavor, substitute any mild cheese that melts easily: e.g., Monterey Jack, Colby-Jack, mozzarella, or a young Provolone or Asiago.

Step 1 - You can use leftover chicken or turkey for this recipe; rotisserie chicken; or roast or grill your chicken breasts fresh. To roast raw chicken breasts, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning; place them in a greased shallow pan; and cook them for about 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 325 degrees F. Do not overcook or your chicken will be dry. Chop up the cooked chicken and set aside.

Step 2Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a shallow 8 x 12-inch glass dish or casserole pan with butter or margarine. In a large bowl, mix together the stuffing and broth. If you roasted chicken specifically for this dish, I suggest adding the pan drippings to the stuffing bowl for even more good flavor. Pour the stuffing into the pan. Using the back of a large spoon, press it into an even layer, and bake until the top is crispy and brown, about 20 minutes.

Step 3 - Spread the cooked chicken evenly on top of the cooked stuffing. Arrange the ham slices on top of the chicken and return it to the hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove the pan once more and cover it evenly with the cheese slices (or shredded block cheese). Bake for 10 more minutes, until cheese is mostly melted. Finish under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.

This chicken casserole is delicious served with sweet corn and a salad. May you eat it with joy.

F o o d i e


To visit the 
FDNY Foundation
Web site, please click here.

FDNY Fire Zone is operated by the FDNY Foundation, the official non-profit of the New York City Fire Department. Donations to the Foundation help the Department in educating, informing and involving the public in protecting life and property, and support the Department's operational requirements.