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June 16, 2024

Dirty Grilling the Perfect Steak

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Okay, let’s be honest. There is no “perfect” way to make a steak. Grilling, pan-searing, oven broiling, smoking, reverse searing, steak tartare…there are lots of great ways to prepare a steak, and they all can lead to perfectly delicious results.

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But, in honor of Father’s Day, we want to share with you what is perhaps the “manliest” thing you can do with steak: dirty grilling.

Dirty Grilling

What is dirty grilling? It’s the simplest way to cook a steak. You simply slap it down right on top of the hot coals and enjoy hearing your guests gasp.

Okay, it’s not quite that simple. But it’s close.

As grillmaster Adam Perry Lang explains in his grilling guide Charred and Scruffed, grilling “dirty” means cooking your meat directly on your coals or at least so close to the coals that there’s no room for oxygen to get in and start kicking up flames (which we want to avoid, since too much flame can give meat a nasty acrid taste).

It takes a leap of faith the first time you drop that pristine steak directly onto a bed of hot coals, but trust us, your boldness will be rewarded!

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Why should you dirty grill your steaks?

The great thing about dirty grilling steaks (besides the fun of cooking like a caveman), is that (a) it’s super easy to do, (b) the cleanup couldn’t be easier, and (c) slapping a steak directly onto the coals feels like the epitome of "manning" a grill. Plus, (d) dirty grilling gives your steak a fantastic outer crust or “bark” while still leaving the inside juicy and tender.

How important is it to give your steak a nice sear on the outside? Personally, I think that a great crust is what makes steak worth grilling in the first place. If you cook the inside of a steak to juicy, flavorful perfection but you don’t have a good crust on the outside, then you have exactly half of a great steak. So yeah, the sear matters.

And dirty grilling can give you a fantastic sear.

While dirty grilling is, technically, a form of reverse searing, it has one huge advantage over a conventional reverse sear. Dirty grilling doesn’t take hours and hours. It’s just quick and…well…dirty.

And don’t worry: Your steak won’t end up tasting like charcoal. You will fan away any ash before you lay down your steak, and any bits of coal that may get attached to the meat can easily be brushed off. If you follow the steps correctly, you’ll be left with a wonderfully smoky, crispy, succulent steak, plus the pleasure of watching your guests’ jaws drop.

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Review

In earlier articles, we’ve covered the grilling basics including how to choose your grill (e.g. propane versus charcoal/wood) and what tools are worth using. We went over how to plan, build, and maintain your fire . Now it’s time to put your grilling knowledge to work.

Start with the right steak.

If you want to do this up right, you need to start with a good, thick, dry-aged steak, preferably a Porterhouse or bone-in ribeye.

How thick? I’d say at least 1¼ inches, but 1½ – 2 inches would be better. And leave some of that outer fat on there, trimmed back to about ¼ inch.

Why dry-aged? The biggest obstacle to getting a great sear on a steak is surface moisture. If there’s water on the outside of the steak, a lot of heat from your coals will go into evaporating away that water. Instead, we need that heat to be used to activate the Maillard reaction that gives meat that wonderful fragrance and flavor of a good sear. If you're using heat to burn away water, you’ll miss that narrow window of time when your meat should be getting a great crust without overcooking the inside.

Dry-aging

Dry-aging is when meat is stored under carefully controlled conditions. This gives time for the surface to dry and for muscles and connective tissues to start breaking down, making the meat more tender and flavorful. I prefer a steak that’s been dry-aged 28-54 days. Although most stores don’t age their meat that long (if at all), you can ask your butcher to let one age for you. (Shout out to Heritage Craft Butchers and the Harmon’s Meat Department in Orem whose butchers have been tremendously helpful to us.) Alternatively, you can order dry-aged wagyu beef online, but that can get unnecessarily pricey.

If the steak you want to grill hasn’t been sufficiently dry-aged, you can salt-dry it instead. Pack the steak on all sides in a covering of course salt. (Any kind of rock salt will do, but don’t use kosher/iodized salt or anything that’s ground too fine.) Leave the salted steak uncovered in your fridge for two hours. The salt should get wet from the moisture it draws from the meat. Rinse the salt off thoroughly and pat the steak dry. (It might seem like washing the salt off with water defeats the purpose but trust us on this.) Allow the steak to air dry in the fridge for two more hours.

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Don’t skip the salt.

Typically, when I grill steak I’m going to use a combination of spices, olive oil, and maybe some butter to baste as I grill. But grilling dirty presents a little bit of a problem. We don’t want anything on our steak that will burn in contact with the coals. Don’t confuse the Maillard process (which gives steak its nice, tasty outer crust) with burning; they are not the same thing. Anything that burns on the steak is just going to taste nasty. So we're not going to put much on the steak before it hits the coals.

But salt is the exception.

We simply can’t have a great steak without salt, and we need to add it before we grill. In fact, the best practice is to salt your steak a full 48 hours before grilling. Paradoxically, the more time the salt has to work its way into the interior of the steak, the less “salty” the finished steak will taste. Steaks that have been salted 48 hours in advance come out tasting well-seasoned, which heightens the flavor of the meat.

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Prepare your fire.

If you’re going to grill your steak dirty, you need to use lump charcoal fire, not briquettes or gas. Briquettes are full of chemicals that you don’t want touching your meat directly, and a gas grill misses the whole point of grilling dirty.

You’re going to want your fire very hot (that’s the main advantage of using a charcoal grill, after all), and the more rare you like your steaks, the hotter your fire needs to be. That may seem counterintuitive, but the hotter your fire, the quicker you can get a good sear on the outside, which means there’s less time for the inside of your steak to overcook.

Once you have your coals glowing hot, you’ll need to spread them out evenly so they lie as flat as possible. You’ll need enough coals so that when it’s time to flip your steak over, you’ll be able to move it onto fresh coals.

How should you arrange the coals?

That depends on which of two approaches you are taking to your dirty grill.

The first approach is to go full cave man and just slap that baby straight onto the coals. This has the advantage of being quick and easy, and it works great for relatively thin steaks.

The second approach (which you’ll need for any steak over about 1¼ inches thickness) is to slow-cook the steak first. Position your steak a few feet above the flames (as we do with our Santa Maria grill). Leave it there until the inside temperature measures 10 degrees below your target temperature, then lower the steak directly onto the coals to start that precious sear. Alternatively, you can zone your coals so that they are all off to one side, then place your steak on the other side of the grill. The steak can cook slowly from the indirect heat inside your covered grill. Again, once it’s 10 degrees below your target doneness (as measured by a meat thermometer), move it directly onto the coals to start your sear.

If you’re going to be pressed for time on the day of your grill, you can prepare your steak sous vide. That way, all you have to do on the day of your party is give it a great sear and enjoy.

Target internal temperatures

As a rule of thumb, here are the target internal temperatures you’ll want to hit with your steak. Remember, this is the highest temperature you want the inside of your steak to hit, not the point at which you take it off the grill. The internal temperature will continue to rise for a little while after you take meat off, so remove it from the heat a few degrees before it hits your target temperature. Otherwise, it will overcook.

  • Rare=120-125°F
  • Medium rare=130-135°F
  • Medium=140-145°F
  • Medium well=150-155°F
  • Well done=160-165°F
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Searing

Regardless of whether you slow-cook the inside of your steak first or skip straight to your dirty grilling, you’ll first want to fan away any ash from the coals. Give your steak a good basting in butter, then carefully lower it onto the coals so that it lies as flat as possible. Leave yourself room so that you will later be able to flip your steak onto fresh, unused coals.

Let the steak cook for two minutes undisturbed. Remove it completely from the heat, brush off any ash. Brush it with butter again and let it sit a few minutes so that it bastes and also rests the meat, letting the internal temperature continue to rise. Place it back onto coals with the uncooked side down for another two minutes. Repeat this process until you reach the needed internal temperature. The thicker your steak, the more gradually you’ll need to approach that target temperature, so the more times you may need to take the steak on and off.

All this “on again off again” movement may run counter to what you’ve been told about grilling. Counterintuitive as it may seem, it helps to cook the meat all the way through. The internal meat will continue to rise even after being removed from direct heat, while the outside of the steak will be allowed to cook. The goal is to let the inside reach its target temperature without scorching your outside, and tempering can help the steak gradually get there.

But I’m not supposed to turn the steak too many times!

The old adage that “turning the meat too many times will ruin the steak” is nonsense, especially in the case of dirty grilling.

Turning the meat multiple times allows for a more gradual, consistent cook, which is good. The main rationale behind the “don’t mess with the meat” rule was that multiple flips will mess up your grill marks. Well, with dirty cooking, you’re not going to have any grill marks anyway.

But while we’re on the topic, let’s dispel this pesky myth of grill marks. The reason grill marks are appealing is that they visually signal that the meat has been grilled and thus received a bit of Maillard reaction wherever the meat touched the hot grill. Well, since Maillard browning makes meat more delicious, why confine it to a small area? Why wouldn’t you want that deliciousness all over the surface of your steak?

You would!

So forget about trying to get grill lines onto your meat. When I see a piece of meat with grill lines, that just tells me that the fire wasn’t hot enough to give the whole surface a proper sear.

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Resting

Once your steak has reached an internal temperature 10 degrees below your target temperature, take it off the coals and brush away any clinging debris. Wrap it in tinfoil and allow the meat to rest for 10 to 20 minutes so the meat fibers will soak back up all the juices. (If you were to slice the steak open right away, a lot of juice would spill out of the meat, and you would lose a lot of flavor.)

Dressing your Board

As your steak is resting, make a board dressing. Take a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a little salt and pepper, a few finely-chopped herbs like rosemary and thyme, and maybe some microplaned garlic or shallots. Balsamic vinegar can add a little bite if you like. Mix these together and drizzle them onto the board you’ll be using to cut and serve the meat from.

The idea is that when you are ready to slice into the steak, some residual liquid will inevitably run out onto the board. You want that liquid to ix with your dressing. Then, as you cut into your steak, let each slice get a delightful dip in your dressing. Flavor, flavor, flavor!

Serving suggestions

Nothing beats the taste of a quality, well-grilled steak, but if you were tempted to top it with a special sauce or dressing, we wouldn’t blame you.

Here are a few of our favorite toppers for grilled steak here are Culinary Crafts.

And while you’ve got that grill fired up and running, here are a few of our past grilled recipes.

Happy Father’s Day to all you grillers out there, old and new.

Eat well!

April 16, 2024

How to Find Fresh Ingredients

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by Brandon Roddy

Culinary Director

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As a chef, I have had the privilege of cooking in some wonderful restaurants and working alongside amazing chefs (including the inimitable Wolfgang Puck and Melissa King). I have enjoyed delicious haute cuisine from all around the world, but the best meal I ever had was about as far from fancy cooking as you can get.

My Best Meal

A few years ago, I was invited to the Cayman Islands to spend a week working as a private chef. An old culinary friend joined me in the adventure, and we spent the week cooking lunches and dinners for a family of about 30 people. After working 12-14 hours per day all week, my buddy and I were delighted to finally get a day off. We spent the morning laying in hammocks at the beach, relaxing and drinking rum.

For lunch, we’d been invited to join a local gentleman who took care of the family's property where we were working. He led us to an old tumble-down shack behind a dilapidated gas station. The shack stood on an outcropping overlooking the Caribbean Sea and all its countless shades of blue. Just below the shack, a small fishing boat lay anchored to a rock. Our new friend told us that the boat belonged to the owner of the shack, and that he went out every morning to catch the fish he cooked and served.

My friend and I let our guide order for us. We enjoyed fresh-caught roasted snapper, fried plantains, cassava (yuca), and pickled vegetables, all served in simple Styrofoam clamshells with plastic utensils. Before eating, our host told to squeeze fresh lemon onto everything. To wash it all down, our guide brought out some Black Rum. I don’t know if it was the flavorful ingredients bought at the local market that morning, the fresh fish, the scenery, the delightful conversation, or just the rum, but I realized that I was enjoying the best meal of my life!

Keeping It Fresh

I’ve never forgotten that experience. It always reminds me that the essence of making great food is keeping it simple and fresh. As much as I love sophisticated culinary innovations and techniques, nothing will ever replace plain, fresh, local ingredients.

And if you can enjoy them on a Caribbean beach with friends…well, that’s just the best.

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Brandon’s Tips for Finding Fresh Ingredients

THINK LOCAL

The simplest way to find fresh ingredients is to buy them locally. When your food comes directly from the farm rather than being packaged, preserved, and shipped halfway around the world, it’s generally fresher and more flavorful. Plus, you can support your local food producers while also reducing your carbon footprint. Sourcing locally is delicious, nutritious, and judicious.

VISIT FARMERS’ MARKETS

Besides offering the freshest possible ingredients, farmers’ markets are also the ideal place to meet local producers and get a foot into that community. Talk to the merchants there. Ask them about how their goods are produced and what they recommend. Even if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, chances are they can point you in the right direction.

Utah has some great farmer’s markets. Salt Lake City has regular markets at Pioneer Park and Liberty Park through the summer and fall. Also, the Gateway hosts an indoor market from November to April. You can learn more here.

For info on farmer’s markets all over the state, check out the Utah’s Own website.

MEET YOUR GROCER AND BUTCHER

It pays to get to know the butcher and grocer at your local grocery store. Ask them when they make fresh bread and what days their fresh produce arrives. If they get to know you and see your enthusiasm for fresh ingredients, they can often help you with insider tips.

DON’T OVERLOOK PRODUCE STANDS

At certain times of the year, stands start popping up all over Utah. They offer watermelons, peaches, corn, apples, cherries, and a whole range of fresh produce. If you haven’t been brave enough to stop and check them out, give it a try. Don’t feel like you’re obligated to buy if you’re not impressed with what you see, but sometimes produce stands are where I have found the very best deals.

GET TO KNOW “FRESH” VENDORS

Some vendors in Utah go out of their way to offer the best in fresh. Caputo’s in SLC is a great place to be introduced to Utah meats, cheeses, honey, chocolate, and other local ingredients. Aquarius Fish Co. is doing a fantastic job bringing fresh seafood to our desert state. Snuck Farm is great for their greens. The Utah’s Own website can give you information on Utah growers and producers, recipes that use local ingredients, and ideas for how to support Utah’s agricultural community.

November 16, 2023

Miracle Turkey

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by Meagan Price

Director of Marketing and Kitchen Sorceress

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Growing up at Culinary Crafts and working events from a young age, I learned the art of putting out fires. I don’t mean literal ones (well, sometimes literal ones), but being a full-service caterer means constantly dealing with problems on the fly, from changing a tire to repairing a bride’s dress to figuring out how to cook the entrée when the venue’s oven breaks. My childhood gave me an unshakable sense of “I can figure that out.” I’m grateful for the confidence I developed, but sometimes it got me into trouble, like it did on the year of the Miracle Turkey.

During my junior year in college, I worked as a resident advisor in the dorms at SUU . I thought of the students in my charge as “my kids” and loved surprising them with pies, cakes, and fresh-made cinnamon rolls. (When did I ever get any studying done?) As Thanksgiving approached, I worried about my residents who would be stuck in their rooms instead of visiting family, so I decided I would take it on myself to make them a full-blown Thanksgiving meal. I hadn’t done anything like that before, but I was sure I could figure it out. How hard could it be?

The Miracle Turkey

Anyone who knows me will not be shocked to hear that I went all out. Twenty pies, three types of stuffing, seven sides, and dozens of homemade rolls. The pièce de résistance was a frozen twenty-two-pound turkey.

I had never baked a turkey, and attempting it in the tiny oven in my tiny apartment was…well…probably a bit crazy, to be honest. After about forty calls to my mom and dad, three batches of burnt Stove Top, and seven hours of cooking a turkey, I finally had my first ever Thanksgiving meal! It was glorious.

None of us knew how to carve a turkey correctly, so we hacked away at it like maniacs. My dorm didn’t have a dining room, so people were lined up and down both sides of the hallway, on beds and couches, or standing in doorways with plates in hand. As more and more guests arrived, I began to worry that we would run out of food. I had planned on about forty guests, but when 150 showed up, I was freaking out! Then something strange happened. As if by magic, the meal seemed to keep multiplying itself. Somehow, we all got fed. It was the miracle of the Thanksgiving turkey.

With a few more years of experience, I realized that it shouldn’t have taken me seven hours to cook a turkey; I could have done it in one or two hours. How? You can find step-by-step directions here for how to save yourself hours in the kitchen and have your turkey come out perfect every time!

May 30, 2023

Basil Pesto Salmon

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by Danielle Mahoney

Director of Staff Development

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Ever since my children could stand, they’ve been next to me at the stove as I cooked. When they were very young, they would join me at the cutting board and put their hands on mine as they “helped” me slice, dice, and chop. I’m a firm believer that the more opportunities children have to help in the kitchen, the less picky of eaters they will be and the healthier attitudes they will have about food and about themselves.

I wanted my daughters to be adventurous eaters, so I liked to introduce new foods and make sure they always tried everything. As they got a little older, they would express their likes and dislikes, which was also something I encouraged.

“Pink Chicken”

One day when my oldest was two or three, she came in from playing and asked what we were having for dinner. I told her we were having Basil Pesto Salmon, and she told me, “I don’t like salmon.” I knew that she had eaten salmon many times and had always enjoyed it, but I didn’t say anything. She went off to play some more, and her young memory forgot the interaction.

When we sat down to dinner that night, I thought I would try to fool her into eating, so when she asked what was on her plate I said, “Pink chicken.” Pink was her favorite color at the time, so it worked out well that the salmon was a sort of pink color. She ate every bite and said it was her favorite dinner and thanked me so much for making it. For years we continued to call salmon “pink chicken,” and even when she was old enough to know the difference, we continued the nickname. To this day, Basil Pesto Salmon is one of her favorite meals to eat and to cook herself. It’s super easy, nutritious, and delicious, and a great way for kids to flex their cooking skills.

To turn this dish into an extra-fancy affair, serve it as bite-size hors d’oeuvres on an appetizer buffet! And if you’re short on time, just buy some quality pesto instead of making your own.

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Basil Pesto Salmon

Salmon

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 salmon fillets, 5 oz each
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place salmon in lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper and allow to marinate while you prepare the pesto. (See Pesto recipe below.)
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. Place 4 piles of parmesan (about 2 Tbsp in each pile) on a baking sheet, gently pat down to form into approx. 3-inch circles. Bake 4-5 min. until cheese starts to bubble and turn golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool and become crisp.
  4. Remove salmon from marinade, generously coated.
  5. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in sauté pan over med heat. When oil is hot, carefully place salmon in pan, and cook 4 min. Turn salmon over and coat with heaping Tbsp of pesto sauce. Cook additional 2-3 min. just until the fish flakes with fork.
  6. Serve topped with cheese crisp.

Basil Pesto

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves (I like to substitute ½ cup fresh spinach leaves for half of the basil. It’s a great way to sneak in some greens)
  • 3 Tbsp pine nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a food processor or high-powered blender, place the spinach, basil, and pine nuts. Pulse a few times to chop roughly.
  2. Add the cheese and garlic, and pulse several more times to combine.
  3. While blending, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream to keep the mixture emulsified.
  4. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides so all the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Consistency should be similar to mashed potatoes with small, uniform chunks.

Enjoy!

May 2, 2023

Kids in the Kitchen: Tips for Helping Youngsters Learn to Cook

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This summer when you start hearing the whines of “We’re bored,” what are you going to do? Put your kids to work in the kitchen, of course!

Wait, wait! Hear me out.

Cooking is a life skill that everyone needs sooner or later, so when you give your kids opportunities to learn in the kitchen, you’re preparing them for the day when they’ll move out on their own. (And they will eventually move out on their own, right? Right?)

But teaching kids to cook is about more than their independence. It also gives them confidence, teaches focus, fosters creativity, and reinforces fine motor skills and basic math skills. Children who learn to cook become more aware of what goes into their food, which generally means that they’ll be more open to trying new foods and more likely to make healthy food choices throughout their lives. Not only that, but the time you spend with your kids in the kitchen will be some of their most delicious memories.

So without further ado, here are our Top 10 Tips for Helping Youngsters Learn to Cook.

1. SAFETY FIRST

Kids + knives + raw ingredients + hot surfaces = why you need a plan to keep your kids (and everyone else) safe in the kitchen.

  • Show your kids how to hold and use a knife. If they’re younger, do it with them. (Danielle, one of our amazing Event Managers, had her very young daughters stand next to her and put their hand on hers as she cut, so they could get a feel for how it’s done correctly, They learned to respect—but not fear—knives.)
  • Don’t just warn your kids that stoves and ovens and pots and pans are hot; show them how to handle hot things safely.
  • Model the habits of food safety. Make sure they know which foods need to be refrigerated, how often we wash hands and surfaces, how we prevent cross-contaminating raw and cooked food, etc.
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2. MAKE IT FUN

Whether your kids learn to love or hate cooking starts with their earliest experiences in the kitchen. Think about how to make it special and fun for your youngsters. Turn on some music. Light a fragrant candle. Keep a few snacks on hand so that they don’t get hangry as they work. Make it a special privilege to wear Mom’s apron or use Dad’s chef knife. Work side by side. Tell stories. Let them talk about themselves. Give them small challenges or make it a game.

If you have the time and want to bond in the kitchen, challenge your child to a competition of Iron Chef: Family Edition. (Chocolate makes a great “secret ingredient” that must be included in every dish.) Invite their friends to be judges, but be prepared for a totally biased decision!

3. SHOW, DON’T TELL

Most kids (and adults) learn better when they’re shown what to do rather than just being told. Watching you peel the first carrot or measure the first cup of flour can help them complete the rest of the job with confidence. YouTube videos can be a great visual teaching tool.

4. GIVE PRAISE

When kids do something highly creative like cooking or writing poetry, they can be very vulnerable. They can easily feel criticized for their efforts, or they can feel proud and encouraged by the feedback they get. Be sure to give them sincere compliments for their successes and don’t make a big deal of their mistakes. Learning to fix errors and roll with setbacks is how kids learn resilience and gain the confidence to keep trying.

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5. GIVE AGE-APPROPRIATE TASKS

For kids to have fun and succeed in the kitchen, they have to be tasked with things they can actually do.

Very Young Kids

Children under 5 will struggle with fine motor skills. Still, there are plenty of things they can do like gathering ingredients from the fridge, wiping down a counter, or mixing things in a bowl. Meagan’s and Clayton's son, Tristan, (age 4) loves pouring ingredients and, of course, licking beaters.

Elementary Age Kids

Elementary age kids may enjoy the challenge of fine motor tasks like cracking eggs, juicing citrus, or peeling and cutting vegetables. They might be excited to use their developing skills to read recipes or perform tasks all on their own. Others, like Caleb’s daughter Hazel (age 8), will enjoy cooking most when they can do it with someone else.

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Preteens

Preteens still need some degree of supervision, but when they’ve shown that they understand and follow the safety rules, they’re ready to start using ovens, microwaves, and knives without someone standing over them. Don’t underestimate what kids this age can do in the kitchen! Caleb’s daughter Brina (age 13) decided she wanted to “cook around the world,” so she made a list of recipes from about twenty different countries and prepared them one at a time for the family, entirely on her own. She made everything from British Yorkshire pudding to Tongan lupulu to Danish pandekager. It’s amazing what kids with confidence and basic cooking skills can do!

Teens

Cooking skills become even more important as older kids get ready to leave home. Before they’re on their own, make sure your teens have had chances to learn the essentials like planning and shopping for healthy, affordable meals; keeping a clean kitchen; and using appliances like crockpots, toaster ovens, or air fryers. Independent life will be so much easier for kids if they’ve mastered a few go-to recipes and are comfortable in the kitchen.

6. INCLUDE KIDS IN THE WHOLE PROCESS

As you know, making a meal entails more than just cooking. As they gain experience, involve your kids in each stage of the process: meal planning, shopping, prepping ingredients, setting a table, managing their time in the kitchen, cooking, plating, serving, and cleaning up.

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7. GIVE KIDS OWNERSHIP

As kids grow comfortable in the kitchen, they can take on more and more autonomy. From an early age, children can be presented with choices. (“Should we have this vegetable or that one?” “Do you want to slice them this way or that way?”) Involving them in meal planning and shopping can further build their sense of ownership. So can giving them opportunities to present the food and talk about how they helped make it.

Older children can be given responsibility for making a specific dish or even for planning and executing an entire meal. Ryan’s daughter, Cayelle, (age 15) likes using her skills to plan and host parties for her friends without Mom’s or Dad’s help. The more initiative and ownership kids are allowed in the kitchen, the more likely they will become confident cooks (and hosts) for life.

8. ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY

As they gain confidence, kids tend to become more creative and curious in the kitchen. If they want to experiment with recipes and try to make improvements, let them! Not every experiment is going to make the recipe better, but it will always be a success if your kids learn something in the process. And sooner or later they’re going to have a win! Matt’s daughter, Ginny, (age 18) refuses to share the secret of the World’s Best Fry Sauce that she perfected as a kid, but she’s always happy to make it for the family. It’s a chance for her to shine.

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9. TAKE TIME FOR REWARDS

Even for professional chefs who have been in the kitchen our whole lives, cooking is still work, and it deserves to be rewarded. Maybe keep a supply of Reese’s Pieces or some other favorite treat on hand to reward yourselves for a job well done!

10. TEACHING IS THE BEST WAY TO LEARN

A fantastic way to reinforce lessons and skills your kids learn in the kitchen is by letting them teach their younger siblings. Or, if they don’t have willing younger subjects, let them flex their skills by teaching you a new recipe or technique they’ve learned.

Happy summer, Eat well!

April 25, 2023

Not Yo’ Mama’s Peach Cheesecake

By

by Clayton Price

Director of Event Operations

Clayton Price, Culinary Crafts, pasta, eating noodles, cheese wheel, Director of Event Operations, bald, chef, funny eating picture, chopsticks, slurp, black and white,  Utah caterer, top catering, Utah events

It’s hard to explain how important Jell-O was in my childhood. My mother had an entire section of her pantry dedicated to that relic of the 1950s. Jell-O was a staple at our table, and more than once, after she’d set out a delicious Sunday dinner of homemade rolls, homegrown veggies, mashed potatoes and gravy, and homemade pies, I heard Mom apologize, “I’m so sorry; I didn’t make Jell-O.”

My wife sees it a little differently.

As a member of the Crafts family (as in Culinary Crafts), my wife grew up with a very different culinary childhood and a different attitude about Jell-O. In our first year of marriage, my mom happened to tell Meagan that my absolute favorite dessert was a no-bake peach cheesecake topped with Jell-O. Always excited about a new recipe, Meagan decided to surprise me with it one day when I came home from school.

Well, Meagan is experimental when she bakes, discarding and substituting ingredients when it suits her, which consistently leads to tremendous results that are 1000% better than the originals. However, this is not one of those recipes.

Sometimes, there’s no substitute for Jell-O.

Meagan spent months working on this recipe, making dozens of edits and substitutions. She replaced the Jell-O with a homemade peach gelée, and she substituted fresh vanilla whipped cream for the Cool Whip. She tried using Culinary Crafts' famous cheesecake base instead of this no-baked version. Meagan experimented with fresh peaches, frozen peaches, diced peaches, sliced peaches, pureed peaches, compotes, marmalades, and curds. She tried a myriad of different ingredients, combinations, and setting methods, but nothing seemed to work the same way as the Jell-O original.

After one of these attempts, I finally asked Meagan, “Why not just follow the recipe?” She admitted that she had—several times—but she had to throw them out because she couldn't make the Jell-O set.

I had to laugh. Of all the millions of things my wife, the Queen of the Kitchen, does expertly, making Jell-O is not one of them. And in this recipe, there really is no substitute for these classic ingredients.

We still make this peach cheesecake with Jell-O whenever we visit my parents, but Meagan reminds me every time that once my mother passes away, she’s never making this recipe again. She says I’d better enjoy it while I can.

And I do!

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NO-BAKE PEACH CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 12 oz Cool Whip, defrosted large bowl of popcorn

Jell-O Filling

  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 oz peach Jell-O
  • 6 cups of peeled & diced fruit of your choice (Frozen fruit works great, but I love using fresh peaches in season. Match the fruit to the flavor of Jell-O.)

Crust

  • 16 graham crackers, crushed in a blender
  • ½ cup butter

    Directions

    1. 1Melt butter and stir together with graham crackers. Gently press the crust mixture into the bottom of a 9X13 pan. Place in fridge to chill.
    2. Combine water, cornstarch, and sugar in a saucepan. Boil until thick, then add peach Jell-O and stir until dissolved. Set Jell-O filling aside until it has cooled, then add peeled & diced fruit.
    3. In separate bowl, stir cream cheese filling ingredients until fluffy and well blended.
    4. Spoon the cream cheese mixture onto the crust. Spoon the Jell-O filling over top of the cream mixture.
    5. Chill until set. ENJOY!
  • April 5, 2023

    Easter Colors from Natural Food Dyes

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    Easter eggs, natural food dyes, blue egg, pink egg, white egg, faded colors, boiled eggs, pastel, natural food coloring, pexels

    As people become more aware of the health risks associated with artificial additives and synthetic food coloring, there has been a growing interest in natural food dyes.

    Whether you’ll be frosting sugar cookies this Easter, dying eggs, or wowing your guests with colorful spring concoctions, homemade natural food dyes can be a great way to make your Easter more beautiful, healthy, and fun.

    Why Dye?

    Artificial food coloring is so cheap and easy to use, why would you consider making your own dyes? Well, here are a few reasons:

    1. They're healthy. Natural food dyes are made from organic fruits, vegetables, flowers, and spices, many of which contain healthy vitamins and minerals. Beets, for example, are a good source of vitamin C, iron, fiber, and iron. It never hurts to sneak a little good nutrition into your diet!
    2. They're safe. While the exact dangers of artificial dyes are still under debate, some things are clear. Several artificial food colors used in the U.S. have been proven to cause cancer in animals, and at least four dyes (Blue 1, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40) have been shown to cause hypersensitivity reactions. Using natural food dyes allows you and your family to avoid those harmful chemicals.
    3. They're environmentally green. Artificial food coloring is generally made from non-renewable, petroleum-based chemicals. Using natural food dyes is a small way to do something good for the environment.
    4. They taste good. While you have to be careful not to use natural ingredients that have an overpowering taste, many natural dyes add a pleasant subtle flavor that helps cut the cloying sweetness of frosting and desserts.
    5. They're fun. Making your own food dyes—especially if you rope your family into doing it with you—can be a fun and meaningful seasonal tradition. And Easter is the perfect time to add color and creativity in the kitchen.
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    Tips for Making Your Own Natural Food Dyes

    • Keep it clean. These ingredients stain easily, so be careful! Wear gloves. Protect your countertops. (You may want to work on a cookie sheet to catch any spills.) Use cheesecloth or a towel that can be permanently stained. And if your kids are helping, make sure they’re not wearing their Sunday best!
    • Adjust the intensity. Remember that natural dyes tend to be more muted than artificial dyes, so expect the colors to be less intense. With natural dyes, you’ll usually end up with softer pastel colors…perfect for Easter! To kick up the color, you may need to use about twice as much dye in your recipes.
    • Start with primary colors. Find good recipes for red, yellow, and blue dyes. (See below.) Once you have those three colors, you can mix them in the right proportions to make almost any color you want!

    RED

    Traditional ways to make natural red food coloring include beet juice or dry beet powder, hibiscus tea, strawberries, paprika, cherries, pomegranate, tomatoes, or cranberries. Some of these ingredients have strong tastes and some have little taste at all, so different ingredients work better for different applications.

    To frost our Easter sugar cookies this year, we used dry beet powder because it’s easy to use and does not interfere with the taste of the frosting. Just add a little at a time until you reach the color you want. If you don’t have dry beet powder, you can wash and peel one beet, purée or mash it up, and strain out the juice. To deepen the color, boil the mixture down and/or add a little vinegar.

    PRO TIP: That left-over beet is great for making a delicious borscht.

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    YELLOW

    Saffron, turmeric, annatto, lemons, carrots, and yellow onion skins can all be used to make yellow natural food dye. We used saffron because we’re all about keeping it simple. Just crush a pinch of the spice in a mortar and pestle, add a little hot water, and voila!

    PRO TIP: Adding a little vinegar may help you extract a more vivid yellow color.

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    BLUE

    Blueberries, red cabbage, purple potatoes, and cornflowers can all be used to make natural blue food dyes, but we used butterfly pea blossoms.

    If you haven’t worked with butterfly pea blossoms before, you’re in for a treat! They’ve been used in Southeast Asia for all kinds of delightful drinks and dishes for centuries.

    Butterfly pea blossoms are inexpensive and can be ordered online. Steep a dozen blossoms in a cup of boiling water for about 15 minutes, until the water turns a vivid blue. Then strain out and discard the flowers. You can add the remaining blue dye to any food or drink, but here’s part of what makes these flowers so fun: their color changes according to pH! If you add a few drops of lemon juice or some other acid, you’ll see it transform from blue to beautiful shades of purple, lavender or pink.

    PRO TIP: Dye your Easter eggs blue with butterfly pea blossoms, then drizzle them with lemon juice or soda to play with the colors.

    While pea blossom extract lends a vivid blue color to drinks, it makes a very pale blue in frosting or other foods. We also tried crushing dried blossoms with a mortar and pestle and adding the powder directly into our frosting. It works, but if you use this method, be sure to remove the sepals (the little green leaves on the blossoms) before you crush your powder.

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    Wishing a healthy, safe, and beautiful Easter season to you all!

    Eat Well.

    March 8, 2023

    Kitchen Safety Tips for the Accident-Prone

    By

    by Amanda Mize

    Scullery and Prep Chef

    Kitchen Safety Tips, culinary crafts, utah catering, carving knife, steak, tomahawk steak, knife handling, safety, knife skills, trim steak, March 2023, cut, how to

    I have always been accident prone.

    The first time I rode a scooter to school, I hit a pebble and went down hard, knocking my teeth on the road. I never told my parents about that. In fact, I never told them about a lot of accidents I had over the years, like the longboarding mishap or the road rash I got from slipping on a wet sidewalk at a friend’s swimming party. They have no idea how many accidents I’ve had, and I want to keep it that way.

    For someone who has so many scars from so many accidents, working in a kitchen seems like a terrible career choice. But actually, it’s a good thing because I’ve had to train myself to be super careful and follow good safety rules. The truth is that anyone can get hurt in the kitchen. When you get too confident and ignore the rules, that’s when you’re in trouble.

    My boyfriend likes to tease me that the reason he does most of the cooking is because I’m not safe in the kitchen. (I let him think that because I’m just glad to have a break from being in the kitchen all day at work!) But once in a while, I get the urge to cook at home. Recently, I made grilled cheese sandwiches. I didn’t cut myself. I didn’t get burned. There was no accident of any kind. I have to admit, I was feeling a little proud of myself as I carried my sandwiches up the stairs to show him what I’d done.

    And that’s when I slipped on the stairs and dropped the plate.

    Life is hard for us accident-prone people, but I swear, we’re the safest people around if we follow good safety guidelines. Here are a few kitchen safety tips I’ve had to learn along the way:

    Kitchen Safety Tips for the Accident Prone

    • Make your workspace safe.

      Before you turn on any heat or pull out anything sharp, make sure you’ve cleared out any pets, children, or amorous partners. Don’t leave anything where it can fall, be bumped, or overheat. Have a fire extinguisher nearby as well as a cookie sheet or other flat surface to smother a fire. Also, no slick surfaces.
    • Don’t wear anything loose.

      Tie up your hair and avoid loose-hanging clothes or jewelry.
    • Never reach into something you can’t see.

      This includes murky water and drawers that are out of your vision. If you have a bin full of dirty utensils, pour it out rather than trying to sort through it by hand.
    • Don’t dump broken glass into the trash.

      It will cut through the plastic and hurt someone carrying it. Place broken glass in a used cardboard box, an opened tin can, or some other waste container that won’t easily be cut open when it’s in the trash.
    • Make sure your cutting board is secure.

      You don’t want it to slide around! If it’s on a slick surface, lay a damp cloth flat underneath your board.
    • Keep your knives clean.

      For health safety, you should always keep your tools clean, but be extra careful not to use a knife that has oil or grease on the handle.
    • Make a flat surface on anything you cut.

      The first cut a chef makes is often one that creates a stable, flat surface so that the object will rest firmly in place.
    • Don’t use anything wet to shield you from heat.

      A wet towel will burn you just as badly as a pan if you try to use it as a hot pad.
    • Don’t wear plastic gloves under grilling gloves.

      Trust me. Just don’t.
    • Don't get complacent.

      This is the hardest rule to follow, but it's the most important. When you stop paying attention and start thinking, "I got this!" that's when you spill your beautiful grilled cheese sandwich on the stairs.

    February 9, 2023

    Top Tips for Shopping for Champagne

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    Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Shopping for Champagne, toast, glasses, amber wine, fizzy, celebration, party event, Utah catering, flutes, salut, bubbly

    For many of us, Valentine’s Day is a great chance to share some bubbly with our special someone. But champagne can be pricey, so how can you know that you’re getting your money’s worth? At the end of this article, we’ll give you our picks for the best value champagnes and other sparkling wines. But first, if you really want to understand what you’re looking for when shopping for champagne, here’s what you need to know.

    What’s the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?

    “Sparkling wine” refers to any kind of wine that contains a significant amount of carbon dioxide, the gas that gives us those characteristic bubbles. People often refer to sparkling wine as “champagne,” but that’s not strictly correct. Champagne is only one type of sparkling wine.

    In fact, under European law, a wine cannot be labeled as “Champagne” unless it fits specific criteria. It must be (a) produced in the Champagne region of France, north-east of Paris, (b) using specific types of grapes, (c) which are picked and processed by hand, and (d) bottled using a specific technique called the “méthode champenoise” to give the wine its iconic fizz. If a sparkling wine does not fit those four criteria, it’s not Champagne.

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    Why is Champagne so expensive?

    The fact that Champagne can only be produced in the Champagne area of France is one reason that it’s typically expensive. The Champagne region has a limited growing area, which means it can produce only a limited supply of grapes. Economics tells you that when supply is low, prices are high.

    A second factor that drives up the price of Champagne is the time-consuming way it’s made. As we said, Champagne grapes must be harvested by hand and bottled by the “méthode champenoise.” Traditionally, sparkling wines are made the same way as other wines except that there are a few extra steps. After the wine has fermented, the bottles are opened, and a small amount of tirage (a mixture of sugar and yeast) is added. Then the bottles are resealed and allowed to ferment a second time. As the yeast consumes the sugar in the tirage, it produces the carbon dioxide that forms the bubbles in sparkling wine. That traditional method is time-consuming, which is why some kinds of sparkling wine use newer methods which save time and lower the price. But remember, Champagne must use the traditional method, so that drives up the price.

    A third reason for the relatively high price of Champagne is the simple fact that Champagne producers have done a great job of marketing their product. People know about Champagne, even if they don’t know about other types of sparkling wine. They assume that Champagne is a superior wine, so they’re willing to pay for it.

    Is Champagne better than other sparkling wines?

    Not necessarily.

    The old adage “You get what you pay for” is not always true in the world of sparkling wines. Remember, when you’re shopping for Champagne, you’re going to pay a premium for that word on the label. The truth is, some very expensive bottles are not worth their price point. However, on the lower end of the price range, the adage generally is true: Don’t expect to find a good sparkling wine for $7.

    Don’t get us wrong. Some Champagnes are worth every penny. But over the last century, wine producers from all over the world have begun producing some truly excellent sparkling wines, and compared to Champagne, some of those newer wines offer an even better buzz for your buck.

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    What are the alternatives to Champagne?

    Today, there is a wide range of sparkling wine options. They vary according to where they are made, what grapes they use, and what process is used to process them.

    Sparkling wines that are made in any area of France other than Champagne are called Crémant or Mousseux. Crémant is made using the same “methode traditionelle” process as Champagne. (Some wines made in other parts of the world also call themselves Crémants, so don’t be confused if you see a California Crémant.) A Mousseux uses either the tank method (a.k.a the “charmant method”) or involves injecting the carbon dioxide into the wine, much like soda.

    Prosecco (from Italy’s Veneto region) also uses the tank method, which makes it cheaper and one of the most popular alternatives to champagne in the world. Other Italian sparkling wines fall under the broader term of spumante.

    Spain’s hugely popular sparkling wine is Cava. Although it is made with the same “methode traditionelle” as Champagne and often uses the same grapes, it is considerably less expensive. Spain has much more area to grow its grapes than the Champagne region has, so the grapes that go into Cava are generally less costly. Also, Spain has automated a lot of the process and shortened the aging time, all bringing down the overall cost. Cava is an excellent sparkling wine that tastes drier and less fruity than Prosecco.

    Moscato d’Asti is a sweeter, semi-sparkling white dessert wine from northwestern Italy. It is made with the “tank method.”

    Espumante, Portugal’s entry in the sparkling wine world, can be made by the traditional, charmat, or injection method, so you’ll need to check the label.

    Other significant sparkling wines include Sparkling Shiraz from Australia, Cap Classique from South Africa, British Fizz from the UK, German Sekt, and several kinds of American sparkling wines.

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    How can I recognize a great sparkling wine?

    The only reliable way to find a sparkling wine you will love is to try different types and see what suits your taste. That said, here are a few guiding principles to help you spot a quality sparkling wine.

    Bubbles.

    In general, when it’s poured into a glass, an excellent sparkling wine will release a steady stream of tiny bubbles that form a foamy head (the mousse) on the surface. Lower quality wines will have large or inconsistently-sized bubbles that will often cling to the sides of the glass. It’s not just a matter of visual aesthetics; these bubbles affect the way the wine tastes and feels in your mouth.

    Bottling method.

    Many wine critics swear by the traditional method used to make Champagne. It tends to produce sparkling wine that has softer, richer, and more nuanced flavors which is why several other types of sparkling wine such as Crémant and Cava use the same method. However, some wine enthusiasts prefer the taste of Prosecco or other wines made by the “tank method.” These wines—including German Sekt, Italian Moscato D’Asti, and California sparklers—tend to have more simple, tart, and fruity flavors. They are definitely worth trying since they are significantly less expensive and may be exactly what you’re looking for. (One word of advice, though: Because of their narrower flavor profile, tank method wines are often more difficult to pair with foods.)

    Aging.

    As sparkling wine undergoes its second fermentation—before the tirage is removed and the bottle is sealed for the final time—it is allowed to “age.” The longer the wine ages, the more complex flavors it will absorb from the tirage. Champagne is aged for a minimum of 15 months, while Cava is aged anywhere from 9 to 30 months. Check the label to see how long a bottle was aged.

    Vintage.

    The term “vintage” on the label is not a guarantee that a sparkling wine will be high quality, but it’s a good sign. To produce a vintage wine, the winemaker will use their highest quality of grapes grown that particular year. This is generally thought to produce superior wine, although an argument can be made in favor of non-vintage wines (which are designated by a “NV” on the label). Non-vintage wines allow the winemaker to combine grapes from different years, giving them more control in creating the flavor profile.

    Reserve.

    Winemakers put the term “reserve” on their label to indicate that some percentage of the wine used was held back from previous years. In general, a reserve wine is understood to be of a higher quality because it has aged longer. However, wine producers use the term inconsistently, so take the term “reserve” with a grain of salt.

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    How dry of a wine do I want?

    A crucial question to ask yourself when shopping for champagne or other sparkling wine is how sweet you want your wine to be.

    Before sparkling wine is capped for the final time, a little bit of dosage (a mixture of wine and sugar) is added. Without that dosage, the finished wine would be tart and bitter. Obviously, the amount of sugar added determines how sweet the wine will be.

    The most popular level of sweetness is called Brut, but there are several other variations to choose from.

    In order from least to most sweet, here are your choices.

    Brut Nature (also called Brut Zero): No sugar is added in the dosage, so the wine is completely dry. This level is a bit much for many drinkers, but it pairs well with salty or fried foods. Don’t try it with anything sweet or the food will make the Brute Zero taste terrible!

    Extra Brut: With only 6 grams of sugar/liter, this wine is very dry. Again, it’s great for cutting oily or salty foods like French fries or crackers, and it goes well with oysters and raw seafood.

    Brut: With 12 grams of sugar/liter, Brut is by far the most popular variety of sparkling wine. It is perfect for toasting and pairs well with a wide range of foods.

    Extra Dry (Extra-Sec): Moderately dry with 17 grams of sugar and a tinge of sweetness. You never want your wine to be sweeter than your dessert, so Extra Dry works well with foods that aren’t overly sweet, including sushi, vegetables, salads, and soft or creamy cheeses.

    Dry (Sec): With 32 grams of sugar/liter, now you’ll start to notice the sweetness. Balance out the sweetness by pairing it with savory or buttery foods.

    Demi-Sec: A whopping 50 grams of sugar/liter makes demi-sec a dessert wine. Still, it pairs well with blue cheese, red fruits, cinnamon, or yellow and white fruits. Serving it slightly chilled will help cut the sweetness a bit.

    Doux: A very sweet dessert wine with 60 grams of sugar/liter. It’s okay for sipping, but it really shines when paired with bold food like Indian, Thai, or Chinese dishes.

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    What sparkling wine do you recommend in my price range?

    When you’re shopping for champagne or other sparkling wines, the best buy is going to depend on your personal tastes, your price range, and your plans for the occasion. Here are some wines that are great deals for the price.

    (Because the only way wines can be purchased legally here in Utah is through the state’s DABS website, the prices listed here are taken from that site. Utah prices include an automatic 88% markup.)

    Bargain (under $15)

    • Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut Cava $14

    Low End ($15-20)

    • Zonin Prosecco Extra Dry $16
    • Domaine Ste Michelle Brut $16
    • Charles De Fère Reserve Brut $16.50
    • Lamarca Prosecca $20
    • Domaine Ansen Cremant D’Alsace $20.50

    Mid-range ($20-40)

    • Mumm Napa Cuvée M $23
    • Decoy Brut Cuvée $26
    • Santa Margherita Prosecco Brut $28.50
    • Roederer Estate Brut $30

    Upper End ($40-80)

    • Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut $42
    • Schramsburg Blanc de Noirs $45
    • Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top $45

    Premium (above $80)

    • Schramsberg Cremant Demisec $89
    • Krug Grande Cuvée $242
    • Pol Roger Cuvée W Churchill $345

    Where can I find these sparkling wines?

    As we said, the only place in Utah where you can purchase wine is at the state-run liquor stores. However, each store can vary widely from other stores in their inventory, so be sure to check the state’s DABS website or app for availability before you go. At times, some wines are not available anywhere in the state, so you may have to place a special order.

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    I’ve selected my sparkling wine. Is there a best way to serve it?

    Yes!

    It’s especially important that you chill sparkling wines before opening them, both to enhance their taste and to preserve their effervescence. And, unless you’re going for the theater of a dramatic pop and fizzy champagne spilling on the floor, there’s a better way to uncork your sparkling wine:

    1. Remove the foil from the wire cage that surrounds the cork.
    2. Hold down the cork with a cloth napkin or kitchen towel and twist the tab to loosen the wire cage.
    3. Tilt the bottle away from you at a 45° angle, and don’t point it at anyone. (If you do the uncorking correctly, you won’t have an explosion, but still, there’s no reason to take chances.)
    4. With the cloth still over the top of the bottle, hold the cork (and the loosened cage) in one hand. With your other hand, grasp the bottle and gently twist the bottle (not the cork) back and forth. You don’t need to pull out the cork; the pressure from the bottle will force it out for you. You should hear a soft pop as the cork comes out and the air is expelled.
    5. Pour the champagne slowly into glasses. Tall, thin Champagne flutes are great for prolonging the Champagne’s effervescence and highlighting the long, thin trail of bubbles as well as the mousse. Wide, shallow tulip glasses don’t show off the bubbles as well, but they do a fantastic job of maximizing the aroma and taste of the champagne. A third choice, the saucer-shaped coupe glass, is the type used in champagne towers. Any of these styles of glass will allow you to hold the drink by the stem so that your hand won’t accidentally warm the wine.

    Salut!

    September 8, 2022

    Brioche Bread PBJ

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    brioche bread PBJ, peanut butter, jelly, spread, sandwich,

    Peanut butter and jelly (or jam) sandwiches are icons of American childhood. In fact, the average American kid eats more than 1,500 PBJs before graduating high school and will consume almost 3,000 over their lifetime. The PBJ is a perennial favorite in school lunches and after-school snacks because it's delicious, quick, simple, and cheap to make. But it can be so much better with homemade brioche bread!

    If you were like most kids, the sandwiches you grew up on were made with highly-processed, store-bought bread that was...unremarkable. Let’s be honest; the bread was just there to help get the jelly and the peanut butter into our mouths.

    Well, it’s time for the PBJ to get an upgrade. Our Brioche Bread PBJ uses a rich, buttery bread that makes the perfect complement to the sweet and nutty goodness inside. And all of it—the bread, jam, and peanut butter—can be made at home fresh from scratch.

    brioche, bread slices, Culinary Crafts, bakery, Utah catering, Utah County bakeries

    BRIOCHE

    The star of this next-level PBJ sandwich is the brioche bread.

    Brioche is made with eggs and butter, which puts it in the family of breads called viennoisseries, along with baguettes, croissants, Danish pastries, and sweet rolls. It’s so delicious that it’s practically a dessert sandwich! (In fact, this brioche dough can also be used to make mouth-watering doughnuts.)

    A word of warning: before you tackle brioche, we strongly recommend using a stand mixer. Brioche dough needs to be kneaded a lot. The butter and egg yolk fat that give brioche its rich flavor also interfere with the ability of yeast to make the dough rise, so the dough is too sticky and thick to be kneaded by hand unless you’re looking for a major workout! Don’t even try using an electric hand mixer or you’ll risk burning out the motor.

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    Ingredients for Brioche (makes 1 loaf)

    • 6 oz. water
    • 1.2 oz. milk
    • 0.5 Tbsp yeast
    • 0.9 oz sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 10 oz. bread flour
    • 1 oz. all-purpose flour
    • 0.75 tsp salt
    • 1 oz. melted butter

    Instructions for Brioche:

    1. Add flours, sugar, yeast, and salt to a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment.
    2. In a separate container, mix the milk, butter, and water. Stir and add the eggs. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl.
    3. Mix on first speed until combined, then continue mixing on 2nd speed for 20 more minutes or until the dough clings to the paddle and the sides of the bowl are clean. Check the consistency of the dough. It should still feel a little bit tacky and have a smooth, glossy surface. You may have to add a little extra bread flour if the dough is too soft.
    4. Flour your hands, then place the dough on a lightly floured flat surface. Shape the dough into a single loaf or, if you want to make bun-style sandwiches, divide the dough into six equal parts, then roll each portion into a ball. If you want to give your brioche loaf a weave or other decorative design, place your covered dough in the fridge and let it chill until it can be handled easily. Then you can shape in into whatever beautiful design strikes your fancy.
    5. Place the dough into a greased loaf pan or, if you want roll-style sandwiches, divide it into six even dough balls and arrange them on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place as the yeast does its magic! In 1-3 hours, the dough should at least double in size.
    6. To give your brioche a gorgeous golden sheen, beat one egg and brush the egg wash lightly over the top of your dough.
    7. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and firm.
    bread dough, bread pans, butter brush, braided dough

    FREEZER JAM

    The jams we make take advantage of the natural sweetness of fresh fruits that are in season. Practically any berry or fruit will do, so feel free to experiment!

    Ingredients for Jam (makes 2-3 cups)

    • 8 cups fresh fruit—cleaned, seeded, and peeled
    • 2 cups granulated sugar (Depending on how fresh and sweet your fruit is, you’ll want to use between 1/4 and 2/3 cup of sugar for each pound of fruit.)
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (Fresh lemons vary in acidity, so it’s best to use bottled lemon juice.)

    You can add pectin, but fruits already contain pectin naturally and will gel on their own. Add pectin if you like your jam to be thicker. (But if you add pectin, use a higher temperature to cook your jam so that the pectin will activate.)

    bread, jam, butter, served on a stone, plastic spoon, slice of bread, culinary crafts bakery

    Instructions for Jam

    1. Place fruit, sugar, and lemon juice into a large pan. Heat on medium low, stirring to prevent scalding.
    2. Continue to reduce jam until desired consistency is reached. At the right consistency, foam will stop forming on the surface of the jam. The best way to make sure your jam is done cooking is the frozen plate test.
    3. Cool before use. Unused jam can be placed in labeled containers and stored in freezer or fridge. If you use glass jars, make sure the jars are heated or the jam is cooled before it’s poured into the jars.

    Pro Tips: You can speed up the cooking process by using high heat, but you’ll need to stir constantly. Mashing the fruit in advance will also cut down the cooking time which also preserves more fresh flavor.

    For peach jam, add 2 tsp cinnamon. For apple butter, use apple juice and add 1Tbsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, and 2 tsp cloves, then simmer and puree.

    peanut butter, homemade peanut butter, spoon, peanuts

    PEANUT BUTTER

    You probably won’t save any money making your own peanut butter versus buying it at that store, but if you’ve come this far making homemade PBJs, don’t you want to go all the way?

    Besides, our peanut butter is simple and delicious. A word of caution though: we recommend using a food processor, not a blender. Grinding peanuts into butter will heat up a machine’s motor, and most blenders aren’t up to the job.

    Ingredients for Peanut Butter (makes 2-3 cups)

    • 2-3 cups dry roasted peanuts (Don’t use more than 2 cups of peanuts unless your food processor is 7-cups or bigger)

    Instructions for Peanut Butter

    1. Make sure that peanuts are roasted and their skins are completely removed. Also remove the hearts of the peanuts, those tiny nubs between the two halves of the nut. They have a slightly bitter taste.
    2. If you want your peanut butter to be chunky, place 1/3 cup of peanuts in food processor and pulse into small pieces. Set peanut pieces aside.
    3. Place remaining peanuts into processor and run for 1 minutes. Do not add water. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Repeat this process until you reach the desired consistency.
    4. Pay attention to your food processor’s motor. Don’t let it overheat! Give it a break as often as needed to let it cool down.
    5. You’ll see your peanuts turn into a powder, then a dough, and then a paste. Don’t worry. Roasted peanuts will release their own oils, so be patient. Eventually, you’ll end up with smooth, creamy butter!
    6. Once your butter is fully processed, you can add a pinch of salt to taste.
    7. If you want even creamier butter, you can add a little vegetable oil to your processor. If you want your peanut butter chunky, remove your fully-processed butter from your food processor and gently stir in your peanut pieces from step 2.

    Pro Tip: Some people love to add 1 ½ tsp honey. Or you might want to experiment with adding a little cocoa powder and powdered sugar. It’s your peanut butter; you’ve earned the right to go wild!

    Best wishes for the new school year and all the school lunches ahead.

    Eat well!

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