A lot of people may not know this, but many firemen are pretty skilled in the kitchen. For most fire companies, preparing a decent meal is a life skill that is a great value to the group. Many firemen work long shifts that require them to spend many hours or even a few days at a time in the firehouse. As a result, cooking a good meal for an entire shift to enjoy becomes an important part of a happy, healthy, and well-functioning fire company. We are pretty impressed that, amongst bravery and honor, we can add culinary talent to the list of positive attributes that belong to firefighters.
Here is one particular favorite recipe that we found in Sequim Washington’s Sequim Gazette and some greatly appreciated insight from the firehouse chef himself.
Hall’s Inferno Sandwiches
- 2 lbs sliced ham
- 12 oz. mozzarella slices
- 1 16 oz. can refried beans
- 2 cups jalapeño peppers
- 8 Kaiser rolls
Warm refried beans in a medium saucepan. Cut rolls to make into buns. Spread layer of warm beans onto buns. Add ham slices over beans. Add cheese slices over the ham, top with peppers and warm in preheated 350-degree oven until cheese melts. This meal feeds 6-8 firefighters and is guaranteed to put your tongue and tonsils on the red alert for the rest of the day. This is hot and for devoted fire-eaters only. Mild green peppers work just as well.
We were able to get a hold of Chief David Hall from the Springfield Fire Department in Rogersville, Mo. and he was more than generous in fielding some questions for us about his delicious creation.
Is this a family recipe? Where did it originate? Has it been in the family and passed along?
In the fire station there is an adage “Even a blind hog finds an acorn sometimes.” That was the case of this. I am not a gourmet cook, or even someone that likes trying something new, so this was by accident in many respects. I first “created” this about 25 years ago, not long after I started my firefighting career. At the station, I planned on ham and cheese sandwiches, but I am also a fan of hot food, so I decided to add jalapenos to spice it up. When getting the jalapenos out, I saw the can of refried beans and decided to cook them as a side dish. The “side dish” ended up on the sandwich, and that was the beginning of the inferno sandwich.
How many versions before you felt like you “got it right”?
Just the one (version). It was a hit with the crew and it was easy to make. At the firehouse, you don’t mess with that combination.
Are you a fan of spicy foods in general? What are some of your favorites?
I do love spicy foods, but I like a flavorful hot, not a “you can’t taste anything hot”. One of my favorites is “The Tucson” omelet, that is an off-menu special at Anton’s Restaurant. Anton’s is a classic, hole-in-the-wall restaurant here in Springfield that started in the early ‘70’s. Every time I come in, the waitresses know to check with the cooks to see if they have the stuff to make it. It has bacon, fresh jalapenos, and queso cheese in it. Sometimes, they will put in some habanero pepper to pep it up a bit more.
How important was it to create a dish that was easy and quick?
The general rule at the fire station is that it must be inexpensive, quick to prepare, able to stop in middle of fixing it and then restart later without ruining it, and there has to be enough in quantity. The job we do drives all of these. Fortunately, today’s firefighters are also adding in “healthy” to that mix. That wasn’t the case 25 years ago.
What feedback have you received from your fellow firefighters on this recipe?
None lately because I was promoted out of the station many years ago. I am now the Fire Chief for the City. One of the regrets that I have is that I didn’t write down the recipes for the meals I use to cook. I remember a few, but most have been lost in the recesses of my brain.
If you were on a deserted island with nothing but raw veggies, meat, and water, what would be the one spice or sauce you MUST HAVE with you?
Great question. First, throw out the veggies, and then look in the knapsack for Mexican Villa’s Spicy Hot Sauce. Mexican Villa is a local restaurant that is known throughout the region. Their hot sauce is a mix of various peppers. It is hot enough you don’t want too much in one bite, but so good you can’t stop eating it.
No one can make you eat your veggies on a deserted island! We would like to thank Chief Hall for his contribution to our blog with both his delicious recipe and the engrossing story behind it. We will be enjoying Hall’s Inferno Sandwiches again and again.