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November 8, 2018

Our Thanksgiving Plan: timeline to help you prepare for Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving at the Crafts’ house is always a production. Everyone is welcome at our house; we invite family, in-laws, co-workers, friends, and even a few strangers, which leaves us with a large guest count to manage. So, we start the planning well in advance. Here is the basic outline of our Thanksgiving game plan showing how we make sure all the pieces come together for the perfect meal. The most important thing to remember is no one can do this alone! From menu planning to furniture moving to enjoying the meal . . . this is a family and friends holiday. Embrace the season and enjoy!

Thanksgiving Game Plan

3 weeks out
Plan menu. Make shopping lists.
Order turkey.
Any new equipment needed? Gravy separator? Roasting pan? Instant read thermometer?
2 weeks out
Do 1st shopping trip for all non-perishable items and items needed for pre-cooking.
Make vinaigrette for salad.
Make cranberry salsa.
Make pie crust (roll, put in pie pans, freeze)
6 days out
Do 2nd shopping trip. Make centerpiece and table runners.
4 days out
Prepare bread for stuffing.
  3 days out
Prepare stuffing and refrigerate.
Peel potatoes, cube, cover with water, and refrigerate.
Make tray with all ingredients needed for mashed potatoes.
Prepare vegetables and goodies and refrigerate.
Prepare sweet potato casserole and refrigerate.
Make greeting beverage such as hot spiced cider.
Place turkey in refrigerator, if using frozen turkey.
2 days out
Set table and press linens.
Last minute cleaning and tidy.
Give assignments for Thanksgiving Day for last minute items.
  1 day out
Brine turkey.
Toss salad, cover, and refrigerate.
Make bread dough, form into rolls, cover, and refrigerate.
Make fillings for pies and refrigerate.
    Thanksgiving Day
Set out stuffing and sweet potatoes.
Bake pies.
Bake rolls.
Put turkey in turkey roaster.
Bake stuffing and sweet potatoes.
Take out turkey 20-30 minutes before serving dinner. Tent with foil and let rest.
  Last 15 minutes
Cook potatoes and mash.
Make gravy.
Set refrigerated items on the table.
Toss salad with vinaigrette.
Pour beverages.
Enjoy this holiday season! - Love the Crafts' Family

October 16, 2018

Recipe of the Month: Mushroom Barley Soup with Pumpkin Shaped Polenta Bread Rolls

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Our Mushroom Barley soup is incredible even without these adorable polenta bread rolls shaped like pumpkins. But making these pumpkin shaped rolls with friends or family turns an ordinary lunch or dinner into a party! We’ve included detailed step-by-step instructions for making the rolls. These rolls can also be used as the soup bowls, just cut off the tops and scoop out the inside.  Have fun and enjoy!
Barley Mushroom Soup
Makes 16 cups
INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup butter
4 cups chopped mushrooms
6 bunches chopped green onion
2 cups celery
2 chopped onions
½ gallon chicken broth
1 cup pearl barley
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoons pepper
4 russet potatoes, diced
2 cups heavy cream
Directions, Tips & Techniques
Melt butter and sauté vegetables until tender.
Add chicken broth, pearl barley, chopped parsley, bay leaf, dried thyme, and pepper to vegetables.  Cover and simmer for 60 minutes.
Add potatoes and heavy cream to soup and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Pumpkin-shaped Polenta Bread
Makes 12 - 5oz. breads
INGREDIENTS
2 cups Warm Water 98-102 degrees
2 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
½ cup Sugar
½ cup Vegetable Oil
½ cup Polenta
2 tsp. Salt
2 lb. Bread Flour (just over 7 cups approximately)
2 eggs for egg wash plus green and orange food coloring
Directions, Tips & Techniques
Pour water into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, add yeast and sugar. Wait until yeast begins to bubble - about 10 min.
Add all dry ingredients. Mix on 1st (low) speed for 4 minutes and then second speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides.
Cover with plastic wrap and proof on counter for about an hour until doubled in size.
Divide dough into 12 - 5oz pieces for the body of the pumpkins and 12 - ½ oz. pieces for the stems. Shape 5 oz. pieces into small balls, and pinch the ½ oz. pieces into a tear drop shape. Cover with plastic wrap and proof on counter for about an hour until doubled in size.
Before baking, take a serrated knife and cut 5-7 slits from the top of the bun to the middle - these are what give the roll their pumpkin shape. Don’t cut too deep, just light cuts will be enough.
Whisk together 1½ eggs with 1T. of water and 3-7 drops of orange food coloring depending on how vibrant you want your pumpkins. With a pastry brush paint the 5 oz. pieces with orange egg wash.
Whisk together ½ egg with 1 tsp. of water, add 2-5 drops of green food coloring depending on how vibrant you want the stems. With a pastry brush paint the  ½ oz. pieces with green egg wash.
Using your thumb, make an indent in center of the 5 oz. pieces. You want the indent to be about ½". Place the green stems in the indent.
Bake at 375ºF in convection oven until golden brown- about 20 minutes.
Cool on wire racks.
Enjoy!

October 16, 2018

The Flavors of the Fall

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What’s in season right NOW?
With so much produce sourced from around the world and available all year long in grocery stores, it can be challenging to know what is actually in season. Culinary Crafts loves sourcing as much of its produce as possible from local growers. And, we fine tune our menus seasonally to feature local items at their absolute best flavor peak. Here’s our list of Fall delicacies that are in season in Utah, and can be enjoyed now! Apples Broccoli Rabe Cabbage Carrots Cauliflower Eggplant Escarole Kale Parsnips Pears Pumpkins Sweet Peppers Radicchio Radishes Rutabagas Wild MushroomsWinter Squash
We Love Serving Trout in the Fall Although we don’t have many local seafood options, the ones we do enjoy are fabulous! This Ruby Red Rainbow trout is farmed in a local river and fed a diet high in antioxidants which gives the flesh a bright pink color that looks almost like salmon. It also gives a sweetness and tenderness to the fish that can’t quite be replicated. To provide enough filets for our large parties we have the pleasure of working with Riverence Farms. They are experts in raising high quality, antibiotic and hormone free fish. Trout loves wood flavors. We recommend cooking it with your charcoal grill or wood smoker. Ask the butcher at your local Harmons or Macey’s about what fresh local trout varieties they have! Enjoy the season!

October 1, 2018

Knife Essentials: How to pick your knives for your home.

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Our passion for hospitality isn’t limited to large special events. We love to cook and serve fabulous food at home too. And we love to help others step up their home cooking game!

Does the quality of your knives really matter?

Yes. A lot. Good knives are safer and are more likely to avoid mishaps. They’re faster and will save you time. They are also a key gateway to better overall results in the kitchen. Admittedly, as with most things, there comes a point where extra spend doesn’t buy much more function or longevity. But there is still a big difference between cheap knives (that won’t perform and won’t last) and quality knives (that will). If you’re serious about cooking, it’s worth making an investment in your knives.  

What knives should you own?

If you visit a cutlery shop or start perusing options online, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed with options and could quickly spend a lot of green. Our recommendation is to start with the basics. With just a few select knives, you’ll be ideally prepared for nearly all kitchen tasks (and still completely serviceable for the remainder too).

It’s much better to have 3-5 great quality knives that will see a lot of use, versus a 18 piece block set of mediocre knives (most of which will just take up space). If you cook a lot and want to add more knives to your arsenal, you can add these one by one over time as your desire and budget allow.

 

We recommend making your initial investment on the following key knives. If you can afford to invest in 5 knives at once, excellent. If you can’t, start with the first three listed here and add the others later.

  • Chef’s Knife. Aka Cook’s Knife, this is the most commonly used knife in the kitchen. Features a wide symmetrical blade that tapers to a point. Ideal for a wide array of chores including, chopping, slicing, mincing, etc. Sizes range from 6” -14”. We find that 8” or 10” are most popular / easy to use.

     

  • Serrated Bread Knife. Straight or slightly curved blade, often with a single sided edge. Some bread knives are offset which help avoid knuckles hitting the counter or cutting board. Not limited to bread, these knives are also great for slicing fruits with a hard rind and/or soft interior. Sizes typically range from 6” - 12” and we prefer them 9” or more.

        

  • Paring Knife. Probably second only to the Chef’s Knife in versatility and frequency of use. Perfect for peeling, julienning, garnishing, and other tasks that require delicate precision. For your first and go-to paring knife, opt for a spear point or sheep’s foot style (put off buying a bird’s beak / tourne style until later or never). Sizes will vary, but will be shorter. We prefer 3-4”.

  • Utility Knife. Found with both straight and scalloped edges, utility knives could be considered filling the gaps and overlapping the uses between your chef’s knife, paring knife, and slicing knife. Excellent for slicing soft fruits and vegetables. Sizes typically range from 5-8”, with 6” being very common and our recommendation.

           

  • Carving / Slicing Knife. While perhaps not used as much as the other core knives listed above, when you have a large whole muscle meat (roasts, whole poultry, hams, etc.) to serve, these are invaluable. Blades are typically straight edged and relatively thin. Granton edges (hollow ground sections along the side of blade to create space and reduce drag) are common and popular on carving knives. Sizes vary and shorter lengths (9” - 12”) often have pointed tips while longer lengths (14”+) often have rounded tips.

           

   

Other useful knives.

For many cooks - especially home cooks, the knives already listed will suffice for nearly all applications and needs. That said, there are lots of other styles out there that can be helpful (or just fun to collect). Options include:

  • Boning Knife. Just like sounds - ideally suited for removing meat from bone, skin, and other tissues. Boning knives are generally either classified as flexible (great for staying close to bones and getting into odd shaped areas) or stiff (great for making straight cuts and jointing).

  • Santuko, Nikiri, Gyoto, and other Japanese style knives. Increasingly popular in Western kitchens, these knives are often alternatives to the traditional Chef’s Knife or Utility Knife. Typically these are single edged, and ground to a narrower angle than European style knives. The narrow angle is sharper and slices better with more precision, but requires more maintenance. Unique blade styles offer different ergonomics and function which many chefs prefer for certain tasks - especially very thin slicing and chopping.

  • Cleaver. Not common in home kitchens, since these are thick and heavy knives designed to chop through thick meat and bone when butchering. Also great for opening lobster shells and other similar tasks.

  • Cimeter. The staple knife for professional butchers, but not commonly used in home kitchens.  

What to look for and consider when buying knives.

 
  • Knife Anatomy

 

  • Stamped vs forged construction? Stamped knives are made by cutting the knife shape out of a flat sheet of metal (like a cookie cutter). Forged knives are made by hammering heated bar metal into the knife shape. Once the basic shape is formed, both types of knives will be ground and honed to create the cutting edge. Stamped knives are typically thinner, lighter, lacking a bolster, and are generally less expensive. Forged knives are thicker, heavier, stronger, well balanced, and are usually more expensive to purchase. For most long lasting knives, we prefer forged construction. That said, for some knives (a long granton edge meat slicer or a heavily used and often replaced butcher cimeter, we opt for stamped).

  • Type of steel? Nearly all high quality knives are made from some type of high carbon stainless steel designed to strike a balance between hardness and durability, ease of sharpening and honing, resisting stain and decay, and cost. German steel (often 420 or 440 C stainless) is common for European style knives. It’s excellent at resisting corrosion, and very easy to sharpen. German steel is durable and holds an edge well, though not as well as some harder steels. Japanese steel (often VG-10 or San Mai) is common in Asian style knives and is increasingly seen in European styles as well. This layered laminated steel is exceptionally hard which offers excellent sharpness and edge retention. They can be more difficult to sharpen well and sometimes offer slightly less corrosion resistance compared to the German steel. As noted earlier, these steels are all striking a balance between different factors. The best steel for you depends on your personal preferences and priorities.

  • Handles? Wood handles are not only very comfortable, we think they’re the prettiest options. They can also last longer than the blade of the knife, but require more maintenance than other options. Stainless handles are popular for the seamless styling and the ease of maintenance. The notable drawback is than many stainless handles can become slippery when wet, though many steel knives have textured stainless handles to mitigate this. Synthetic resin and Polyoxyethylene (POM) handles are very common on riveted full tang knives. They’re very durable, easy to clean, and although simple, very nice looking. Plastic, nylon, and rubber handles are popular in commercial kitchens because they are affordable, easy to clean, and fairly durable. We don’t find them nearly as attractive as other options though and many home chefs want something with more aesthetic appeal.

  • Edge type? Straight edge (aka flat ground) is the most common and applicable. Granton edge (see the note on carving knives above) reduce drag and are very nice in certain situations. Serrated edges (aka scalloped) have small “teeth” which help to penetrate a tough exterior without pressure that might harm a soft inside. Hollow ground edges are are concave to create a very thin and narrow cutting edge. They are very sharp and wonderful for delicate tasks, but not recommended for heavy duty chores.

  • Edge angle? European style knives usually have a 20 degree angle which is great for edge retention and durability. Asian style knives have usually have a 15 degree (sometimes even narrower) which is excellent for sharp precision slicing.

  • Full Tang design? Full tang refers to the entire knife being a single piece of metal end to end. The core of the handle is simply an extension of the blade. This can easily be seen on knives where the core of the handle is the same metal as the blade and the handle material is double or triple riveted to the metal. In general we prefer full tang knives because they are sturdier, longer lasting, and more reliable. If you’ve ever had a partial tang knife break apart at the handle during use, you know how frustrating and dangerous it can be. Heavy full tang construction is particularly important for knives that see a lot of heavy use and cutting. For lightweight knives that will be used primarily for delicate tasks, this is less crucial.

 

Caring for your knives.

 
  • Always hand wash with warm soapy water after use, rinse well, and dry thoroughly immediately. Avoid leaving knives dirty for long, machine washing, and extended air drying.

  • Hone your knives regularly - practically with every use.

  • Keep your knives sharpened. Frequency of sharpening will depend on the steel, type of use, and frequency of use. See our separate post about knife sharpening for more info and tips.

  • Store your knives safely and properly. Though popular and convenient, we do not recommend traditional knife blocks. These take up a lot of counter space, tend to dull your knives, can collect hard to remove particles, and often encourage buyers to purchase more knives than they need. We much prefer a magnetic wall strip which saves space, offers easy access, is easy to clean, and when used correctly, doesn’t dull the blade. There are also some great in drawer solutions that can protect your knives. If you need to frequently travel with your knives (like us), a nice bag or roll with a soft interior is great. Individual blade protectors can also be well worth getting depending on how you store your knives.

 

Happy cooking!

 

September 17, 2018

September Recipe of the Month: The Perfect Dipping Caramel

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Candy making can seem daunting especially if you’ve tried and failed in the past. Whether this is your first time making caramel apples or if you’re ready to try again, you’ll love Meagan Crafts-Price’s tips and tricks to making the perfect caramel apple this fall season!
Caramel Apples
INGREDIENTS
2 cups light corn syrup 1/2 cup water 2 cups sugar pinch of baking soda 1/2 cup butter- cut into 1" cubes 1 12oz. can evaporated milk
Directions, Tips & Techniques
Having your thermometer correctly calibrated is more important than the  particular candy thermometer you use because having your caramel at the perfect temperature for dipping is the key to success. 
Calibrating your candy thermometer
Start by boiling a cup of water in a 1 quart sauce pan. Clip your candy thermometer to the side. If your thermometer reads 212ºF when the   water starts to boil, congratulations that was pretty easy! If it doesn’t, don’t despair. The reading could be off because you aren’t at sea level or your thermometer isn’t calibrated - or probably a bit of both. Here are two ways you can compensate for any discrepancy in the  calibration. My favorite way is to slide the glass tube up or down accordingly until it reads 212ºF in boiling water. If you can’t figure out how to move the glass tube, you can make the adjustment mathematically. To account for the discrepancy in your temperature reading when the water started boiling, simply calculate a new goal temperature in your recipe. For example, if you need to cook your candy to 242ºF, and your thermometer read 210ºF when the water boiled, you know your calibration is off by 2 degrees. So lower the goal temperature in the instructions by 2 degrees, from 242º to 240ºF.
 
Now that you have a calibrated thermometer, keep your pot of boiling water on the stove; you will use it later on. 
In a heavy 4 quart sauce pan combine corn syrup, water and sugar over medium heat. Stirring occasionally with a spatula until mixture comes to a boil. Add in the pinch of soda. The mixture will start to bubble rapidly. This will leave bits of  crystalized sugar on the side of the pan. Take a pastry brush and dip it into your pan of boiling water and wash down the sides of the pan so you don’t get gritty caramel. Clip your calibrated thermometer to your pan of caramel, add butter and stir   until incorporated. Then stir constantly while adding the evaporated milk. You will want to keep the mixture moving so the caramel doesn’t scorch. Continue stirring until your mixture reaches 242ºF (or the adjusted temp for your thermometer). 
Remove from heat and cool until the mixture is 220ºF. This is a key step for dipping! If your caramel is too hot it will just slide off your apples. If it is too cold you won’t be able to get your apples completely coated because the caramel is too thick. While the caramel is cooling, wash 8 apples and insert wooden skewer or popsicle stick about 2” into the apple. Tilt the pan to give you a nice pool of caramel to start dipping. Dip apples into your caramel and turn to coat thoroughly. Drag across the lip of your pan to get off excess caramel, then turn upside down and hold it upside down for about 30 seconds. This helps minimize the foot of caramel that appears at the bottom of the apple when cooling. Place on a piece of parchment paper to cool. You can then dip your apples in chocolate and roll in nuts or candy pieces as desired!
Once you have gotten your 8 apples dipped you might notice there is still caramel in your pan sticking to the sides and such. Don't scrap down your pan with a spatula and continue dipping. The caramel that is sticking to the sides of your pan have still been cooking quite a bit as you have dipped and will be a different consistency than the caramel in the mass. This extra caramel is great to scrap right onto your counter and eat as a snack while you are waiting for your delicious apples to be done!!
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