By Kyra Effren, TSB Food Writer
If you ask Captain Keith Whiteside what his favorite food is – the answer will come back an enthusiastic, ‘YESSS!’
He loves to cook and will try anything – though he cannot wrap his taste buds around ,which is ‘too hot’! (Ironic coming from a fireman!)
Keith, who has lived 30 years in Texas, has served his country and lived all over the world. If he could go back to visit any country, it would be Italy.
He cleans up after he has cooked (MOST unusual in a male) and makes a point of saying that he also cleans up after his wife (miraculous!) He is precise – sticks to the recipe – and has no interest in experimenting.
His biggest mistake? “Not listening to my wife!”
His children love his Chicken Spaghetti, and you will love his Zesty Ravioli Skillet [see below], a recipe generously donated by his wife, although Keith admits to exercising some “cooks license” and added chicken.
I was amazed to learn that Firehouse #2 has a vegetable garden at the back of the fire station, where the chefs can gather tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers and cantaloupes.
During our visit, we were privy to another culinary challenge that fire station chefs face. The alarm bell rang just as Keith was bringing his dish to the table. He dashed off to take care of the ‘crisis’ leaving the ravioli to be enjoyed by the rest of the crew.
I think it is safe to say Fire Station chefs do not include Soufflés in their repertoire.
I hope you enjoy Keith’s Zesty Ravioli Skillet. I certainly did!
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
4 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
6 oz provolone cheese – grated
1 tbls olive oil
1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic – pressed
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt and pepper
1 pkg  ravioli [‘I use Bertolli from Walmart’]
Add oil to 12″ skillet – heat over medium heat 1-3 minutes until oil is shimmering [sic!].
Add chopped jalapeno and garlic and cook one minute.
Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to skillet and cook 1-2 minutes.
Add ravioli – stir to coat.
Cook uncovered 4-5 minutes until tender.
Stir in cream – cook uncovered 1-2 minutes uncovered or until simmering.
Sprinkle spinach over ravioli – cook covered one minute or until the spinach starts to wilt.
Remove skillet from heat. Top with cheese – cover skillet and let stand 1-2 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Yield 8 servings
We add pre-cooked chicken after we add the whipping cream. About three half breasts for 6 firemen!
About The McKinney Fire Department
The McKinney Fire Department is made up of 164 total personnel. While 20 employees work in various capacities on staff, the majority of MFD personnel are professional firefighters, assigned to emergency response duties. Each of the 144 firefighters is trained as emergency medical responders as well, with most being certified paramedics. The MFD consists of eight fire stations covering the 62.9 square miles in the city, as well as the designated extraterritorial jurisdiction. McKinney firefighters responded to a total of 9,794 calls in 2011.
Firefighters in McKinney work a schedule of 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off duty. During the 24 hours on duty, the crews respond to emergency calls, attend mandatory training, and provide public education activities such as station tours and community training. In addition to these duties, they operate their “household” by performing day-to-day routines, including grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning.
About the Author
McKinney resident Kyra Effren is a contributing writer for TownSquareBuzz.com’s “Food” section. She is a retired food stylist and contributing writer for the “Food” section of Dallas Morning News. In 1975, Effren opened Cours de Cuisine Cooking School in Dallas and in 1978, she was awarded The Commanderie des Cordon Bleu in France for her contributions to French cooking. She has edited multiple cookbooks and served as recipe tester for a number of cookbooks including both of the Mansion on Turtle Creek cookbooks by Dean Fearing and baking books by Nick Malgieri.
Kyra welcomes any and all reader comments and suggestions. What would you like to have for dinner?