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Recipe Rescue: July 2011

Firefighters have built a positive reputation in their communities.

July 6, 2011 
By Patrick Mathieu

Firefighters have built a positive reputation in their communities.

Not only do we respond to citizens during their times of need, but also we stand by our duty of giving back in the form of charity work. As firefighters, we donate different forms of expertise and countless hours of our time to ensure our reputations as community servants stand strong. From food and toy drives during holiday seasons, to car washes, fashion shows and charity barbecues, we often go above and beyond for causes that are close to our hearts.

Waterloo Fire Rescue has had tremendous success auctioning our culinary skills for charities and offering gourmet dinners at the fire hall. The day often includes an entertaining tour of the station, with the opportunity for winning bidders to try on our gear and climb aboard the trucks, and generally culminates with a famous fire-hall meal. This allows citizens to catch a glimpse of the fire-hall lifestyle. Our adult guests often react much the same as children do when they visit our fire hall; their faces light up as they experience a day in the life of a firefighter. They are often delighted to see the fire-hall camaraderie, especially when all members of our team pitch in to create the meal and make their stay special.

Waterloo’s reputation for these dinners now precedes us, as guests have spread the word throughout the community. We have been fortunate to generate more than $10,000 in just a few years by welcoming the public into our fire house and treating them to something special for dinner. The big question is always what to serve our guests. In most cases, these individuals have paid large sums of money in support of charities and we definitely want to wow them, so we pull out all the stops, including those fancy, special-occasion recipes. Input from your guests about the menu gives the event a personalized touch and will ensure that the winning bidders have the best possible experience. Depending on your crowd, you could host a backyard barbecue, perhaps an all hors d’oeuvres menu, or even an ethnic-inspired theme, such as Thai or French. Let your creative juices flow and show your guests that your talents as a firefighter exceed the fire ground. The worthy charities benefit from all the hard work in the end. Before you know it, your community will be wishing your fire house were open for dinner every night.

Here are two of my recipes that have wowed our guests and kept them bidding year after year.

delicious dish of Bordeaux-braised beef shanks, paired with a duck a
l’orange salad, is a tasty gourmet combination sure to wow your guests.
(Photo by Patrick Mathieu)

Bordeaux-braised beef shanks
serves 6

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 6 (1-inch thick) beef shanks, about 3 lbs total
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb button mushrooms, stems trimmed
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced, or 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 1/2 cups good quality French Bordeaux
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 (15-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over high heat until very hot.
  2. Season shanks liberally on both sides with sea salt and fresh
    ground pepper, transfer to Dutch oven and cook until browned on both
    sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer shanks to a plate and set
    aside. Add onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms to the Dutch oven and
    cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and beginning to
    caramelize, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary and cook for 2
    minutes. Add the Bordeaux and stir well with a wooden spoon, scraping
    bottom of pan to loosen any bits. Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes,
    beef stock, basil, parsley, crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper
    and stir well to combine.
  4. Return shanks to the Dutch oven and bring sauce to a boil. Cover
    Dutch oven, lower heat to a simmer or place in a 149 C (300 F) oven and
    cook for 5 hours, stirring occasionally, or until shanks are very
    tender. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary. Enjoy!

Duck a l’orange salad with brie
serves 6

  • 3 duck breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 juicing orange
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp orange-flavoured liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cold, unsalted butter

Salad ingredients

  • mixed baby greens
  • 1 orange, peeled and cut into segments
  • red onion, sliced thin and soaked in cold water for a few minutes
  • handful of fresh raspberries
  • 1 block of brie cheese, cut into slices
  • 1/2 baguette for croutons
  • salt and pepper

Vinaigrette ingredients

  • 2 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 juicing orange
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

  1. Score the skin side of the duck breasts in 2 directions. Season the breasts liberally on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Juice the orange, strain the juice into a saucepan, and boil it until it’s reduced to about 1 tbsp.
  3. Heat a sauté pan over medium to high heat and sauté the duck
    breasts, skin side down for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the breasts over and
    cook for 2 minutes until medium rare inside. Tent duck breasts with foil
    and set aside. Reserve some duck fat.
  4. Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F). Cut baguette into cubes and toss
    with the reserved duck fat and salt and pepper. Bake on a cookie sheet
    for 6 minutes, or until toasted. Set aside to cool down.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the orange juice and broth. Add the sugar,
    liqueur and vinegar, and simmer until reduced to half. Whisk in the
    cold butter until all the butter melts. Season to taste with pepper and
  6. Combine all ingredients for vinaigrette in a bowl and whisk well, set aside.
  7. In a large bowl, toss greens with vinaigrette. Top with the
    rest of the salad ingredients. Thinly slice the duck breasts, place warm
    slices on salad and spoon the sauce over the breasts. Enjoy!

Patrick Mathieu is an 11-year veteran of Waterloo Fire Rescue. He has won several cooking competitions and has helped raise thousands of dollars for charities by auctioning gourmet dinners at the fire hall. Contact him at

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