By Michael Morse
Morale is everything at the firehouse. It could mean the difference between a job and a calling. When things are good, there is no better place to be on earth than a lively fire station. The banter starts in the morning over the coffee pot and continues all day, through EMS runs, box alarms, fires, and drills. It continues into the night, through shift change and into the dorm.
The other side of the coin flips now and then, and things get dreary. Hardship is the name of the game here, and even though the tragedies we see usually happen to somebody else, they still hit home. It isn't easy seeing other people's lives taken or transformed, and the lingering aftereffects carry into the station and stay until we throw them out.
My favorite method for morale boost?
Chicken Pot Pie
6 split chicken breasts (just bone them and quit crying, it's not that hard!)
5 cans chicken gravy
5 pounds all-purpose potatoes
2 bags frozen carrots
2 bags frozen peas
salt and pepper
milk and butter
6 pie crusts (in the foil pie pan)
- Put the chicken breasts on a sheet pan, sprinkle salt and pepper on the skin, brush a little olive oil on, and bake at 400°F for 30-40 minutes, until done.
- Have your slaves peel the potatoes and put them in a big pot, cover them with water, and turn on the burners.
- Open the cans of gravy, put the contents into a different big pan, pour the peas and carrots in, add some salt and pepper, and heat.
- When the potatoes are done, drain and season and mash them, using the salt, pepper, and a little bit of butter and milk. Set them aside. By now, the chicken should be almost done.
- You will probably have a few minutes, so open the pie crusts and put them on two baking sheets, three each.
- Now, the fun part: Take the chicken out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then take the meat off the bone. Or, you can just buy boneless, skinless breasts and use them, but they don't taste as good and cost a lot more, and we are trying to boost morale here, remember!
- When the chicken is de-boned, pull the meat apart with your CLEAN hands, making bite sized pieces. Equally distribute the chicken among the pie shells. (Don't be afraid to put a little more chicken in one of the pies, just remember which one!).
- Spoon the gravy-vegetable mix almost to the top of the pie crust; add a little more salt and pepper.
- Now you have six pie shells filled with chicken, gravy, peas, and carrots. Cover the pies with a layer of mashed potatoes. Easier said than done, I know, but try using a rubber spatula if you have one, the kind used to frost cakes. If you don't have one of those, just a big spoon will do; just take your time and distribute the potatoes evenly. Top with a little paprika, and into the oven they go!
Bake at 350°F for about a half hour, until the potatoes on top get kind of crusty. Take them out of the oven (remember which one is "special," and make sure you get that one), cut them in half, and say the magic words:
“ALL HOT!” (the equivalent to the dinner bell in Providence firehouses)
That should cheer things up!
Michael Morse is a captain with the Providence (RI) Fire Department and the author of the books Rescuing Providence and Responding. His articles are nationally published and widely read. He lives in Warwick, Rhode Island with his wife, Che