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June 30, 2022

Ryan’s Grilling Tips: Fuel and Fire

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tomahawk steaks, grilling, fire, summer grilling, steaks on the grill

Welcome to Ryan's Grilling Tips: Fuel and Fire.

In an earlier blog, I suggested ways you can up your grilling game by getting the right tools. We also discussed the pros and cons of using a gas grill versus wood or charcoal, and I mentioned that all the grills I personally own are charcoal. Why? Even though there are some advantages to a gas grill (such as ease of start-up and cleanup), it will never match the taste and temperatures you can reach with a charcoal grill. For me, it's worth dealing with the downsides of charcoal in exchange for those deep, smoky flavors!

But how do you get the incredible taste that only a charcoal grill can achieve? It all starts with mastering two things: Fuel and Fire.

Oktoberfest, grilling, Culinary Crafts, sausages on grill, lederhosen,  smiling chef, German, German hat, tongs, charcoal grill,

FUEL

At Culinary Crafts we always say that great food starts with great ingredients, and when it comes to grilling, charcoal isn’t just a heat source; it’s an ingredient. Unlike cooking in a microwave or oven (or even on a gas grill), the fuel you use in a charcoal grill will flavor your food dramatically, so it’s important to choose your fuel carefully.

Lump charcoal

My favorite fuel—at least for grilling steaks—is lump charcoal.

Lump charcoal is made by burning away all the sap and other volatile impurities in the wood, leaving thick black chunks of carbon. The water and gasses in the wood are also burned off, but not completely, which is why lump charcoal sometimes sparks and pops when you heat it, as little gas pockets expand and explode. It’s not dangerous, but it can get pretty exciting!

lump charcoal, grilling, fire, coals, flame, burning fuel The main advantages of lump charcoal are
  • it gets hot quickly (in 10 to 15 minutes).
  • it reaches very high temperatures (up to 1400°F) which allows you to give food a wonderful char.
  • it burns more completely, leaving behind less ash.
  • it gives a clean, flavorful smokiness to your food.

The downsides to lump charcoal are that it’s a bit more expensive and it burns quickly, so you’ll need to keep adding charcoal for longer grills.

Briquettes

The most popular type of charcoal—the kind I use for barbequing or for lower-temp grills—is briquettes. Briquettes are basically crushed charcoal held together with starch. If they have no other additives, they’re called “natural” or “hardwood” briquettes. Briquettes can be made from many kinds of wood, but I mostly use mesquite for its strong, flavorful smoke. Hickory is also great. The bags you buy in the store don’t always list what wood it’s made from, but if the briquettes are dense (i.e. the bag feels heavy for its size), it’s probably good wood.

briquettes, coal shovel, grill, grilling with charcoal, grilling demonstration, Culinary Crafts, catering in Utah

The main advantages of briquette charcoal are

  • it’s readily available.
  • it’s less expensive than lump charcoal.
  • it’s easy to fit onto your grill and move around to control your fire.
  • it gives a more consistent grilling temperature.
  • it burns longer (100 briquettes ought to let you grill for up to an hour).

The biggest disadvantage to briquettes is that they won’t burn nearly as hot as lump charcoal (briquettes max out around 800°F), but for barbequing and for grilling some foods that’s okay.

Briquettes can also be a little more difficult to light, but using a chimney starter will solve that problem. (See below.) If you want to give your charcoal some help by dousing it with lighter fluid, that’s okay too, so long as you leave plenty of time—at least 30 minutes—for the lighter fluid chemicals to burn away before you start to grill. Don’t ever add lighter fluid after the fuel is hot! Some brands of briquettes are pre-soaked in lighter fluid, but I don’t recommend ever using those types of briquettes. The chemicals will not completely burn away, and they will give your food a nasty flavor.

grilled beef, cutting steak, steak knife, meat fork, prong, cutting board, resting meat, grilled steak

Wood

Unless you’re out in the wild and grilling over a campfire, using raw wood for your sole fuel is not ideal. Wood is full of tar and other contaminants that will produce a thick, dirty smoke when burned. Most people don’t like the flavors it adds to food. Scraps of construction lumber make even worse fuel for grilling because they’re treated with chemicals.

That said, there are ways that raw wood can be used in your grill to add great flavor. Pure wood chips, soaked in water, can be dropped directly on top of your charcoal to add aromatic flavors of your choice. I love the strong smoke from mesquite, hickory, or oak wood chips. Woods like cherry, apple, or plum add a nice fruity flavor, but stay away from soft woods like pine, cedar, or fir. Their smoke tastes terrible.

PRO TIP: If you’re using a gas grill, you can still add smoky flavor to your food by burning woodchips in a smoker box or in a tinfoil packet with holes punch in it. Just place the foil packet over a heat source where it will slowly smoke and burn. You can also add dried rosemary or basil for another level of flavor. (Leave the stems on.) For a rich, fruity flavor, save and dry your grapevine cuttings and add them to your fuel.

wood grill, grilling, flames, barbeque, outdoors, grilling in the backyard

FIRE

Once you know what you’re going to be burning, it’s time to talk about how. The first concern, of course, is safety.

Set Up Safety

  • Set up your grill safely far away from potential fire hazards like structures or low-hanging trees. (Anticipate possibilities like things falling or being blown around by wind.)
  • Position your grill where pets, children, or foot traffic won’t accidentally bump into it.
  • Think about the mess. I’m not just talking about the ash; I’m also talking about the mess from the food itself. For example, if you’re grilling meat, you’re always going to have drippings, so don’t set up your grill on any decorative or porous surface. Stay away from concrete, nice flooring, or patio wood if you can. Grass is good.
  • Arrange your tools and space ahead of time. When you’re holding a scorching-hot chimney in one hand and tending to a sudden flare-up with the other, it’s too late to be thinking about where you’re going to safely put things down.
grilling tools, grilling demonstration, cookbooks, tools for grilling, barbeque tools

Fire Safety

  • Don’t wear anything loose like a tie or dangling, long hair while you’re grilling.
  • Keep “helpful” neighbors and everyone else at a safe distance from your fire.
  • If you ignore our advice and use self-igniting briquettes, at least don’t use them in a chimney or with an electric coil starter.
  • Once your fire is going, never leave the grill unattended.
  • Be careful when opening the lid of your grill. When you turn or move meat, be especially alert for flareups from melting fat falling onto your coals.
  • Wear proper protective gear and don’t set hot items near flammables, where someone can accidentally touch them, or where they can be knocked over by the wind.
  • Have a functioning fire extinguisher and/or a water hose nearby, just in case.
trout, ice, scaled fish, raw fish, fillet, Utah trout, Rocky Mountain trout, Utah catering, fillet of fish

When you’re grilling, you also need to be careful about the way you handle your food.

Food Safety

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, especially raw meat.
  • Keep your plates and platters clean. Don’t put cooked foods onto the same plate with raw foods or where raw meat has been.
  • Keep your tools clean too. If you use a fork or tongs on raw meat, wash it thoroughly before you let it touch any cooked food.
  • Especially for less experienced grillers, it’s a good idea to use a meat thermometer to check your food and make sure it reaches the recommended internal temperature.
  • Don’t leave uncooked, perishable food sitting out (even to thaw) for more than 2 hours. In hot weather, don’t leave it out for 1 hour.
  • Don’t put grilled food into your fridge until it’s had time to cool off. Putting hot food into your fridge can change the temperature enough to make your other food spoil.
grilled hot dogs, sausages on the grill, grilling sausages, char, barbeque sausages, catering in Utah County

Planning Your Fire

Once you’ve set up your space to grill safely, it’s time to think about how you’re going to arrange your fuel and build your fire.

A good fire takes planning. Think about what items you’ll be cooking and what temperatures each of them will need. You may also choose to leave room on your grill for wood chips and/or an aluminum pan to catch meat drippings. Personally, I like to let fat drip right onto the charcoal. I love the added flavor from the smoke of the burning fat, and I don’t mind dealing with the flames of an occasional flare-up by temporarily shifting my meat to a cooler zone.

Good Grub sign, signage, barbeque, grilling outdoors, Culinary Crafts, catering event in Utah, outdoor grilling

You also need to plan out your grilling schedule. Charcoal takes time to heat, and after you put your hot coals onto the grill, you’ll need another 10-15 minutes to let the grill itself get hot before you start cooking. Coordinate your schedule so that your meats will be well-rested and your other food will be coming off hot and juicy right when everyone’s ready to eat.

grilling outdoors, charcoal chimney, fire, starting a fire, Weber grilling, grilling equipment

Light It Up!

If you’re using briquettes, the best way to light them is to use a charcoal chimney. Open the air vents of your grill, remove the cooking grate, and set the chimney on the charcoal grate. Fill your chimney with charcoal. (One chimney full of briquettes should be enough to grill four thick steaks.) Use lighter fluid if you want, but as I said, a chimney makes lighter fluid unnecessary. Pile a wad of newspaper under the chimney and light the paper. The bottom briquettes will heat up and light the briquettes above them.

When the top coals in the chimney are lightly glowing or are flickering with flames, they’re ready. Using thick gloves and following the manufacturer’s instructions, carefully turn the chimney over to dump the briquettes onto your charcoal grate. Use a charcoal rake to arrange them according to your plan to create your temperature zones.

Replace your cooking grate and wait for it to heat up. By the time your briquettes finish turning ashy white, you shouldn’t have any more tall, yellow flames. You want your flames to be low and blue or red; that means that your fire is burning hotter and more efficiently. You should be seeing only a small amount of clear-ish colored smoke from your briquettes. The hotter your fire burns, the cleaner the smoke will be. Remember, thick, black smoke is dirty smoke, and no one wants that in their food.

grill flare-up, grilling hamburgers, outdoor grill, outdoor cooking, campfire cooking, summer catered event in Utah, orange flame, smoke, charcoal grill

Temperature Control

After 10-15 minutes, check the temperature. To do the popular “hand test,” place your hand about four inches above your coals, approximately at the height where your food will be placed. (Don’t touch the grate, obviously.) See how long you can comfortably keep your hand there. If you can hold it there only 1 or 3 seconds, your grill is at a high cooking temp. 4 to 7 second means you’re at a medium heat, and 10 seconds or longer means you have a low temperature.

For grilling steaks, pork chops, burgers, or thin veggies you’ll want a high temperature. Medium heat is great for chicken, fish, or thickly-sliced veggies. For larger or tougher cuts like ribs or brisket, you’ll want to grill them at low heat for longer times.

If you need to decrease your heat, try cutting off some of the oxygen to your fire by partially or fully closing the grill’s air vents.

To turn up the heat, try increasing the airflow by opening the vents. Raking the coals or breaking your charcoal into smaller pieces will increase the surface area that can burn, which will also raise the heat. Just be careful not to knock ash onto your food. If those methods don’t work to increase the heat, you probably just need to add more fuel.

grill, trout, santa maria grill, outdoor event, summer party, catering in Utah, SLC caterers

Don’t worry if you encounter some difficulties building your fire, creating your grill zones, and keeping their temperatures constant. Learning to master fuel and fire takes practice. But now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to turn our attention to the food.

That, my friends, is the subject of our next grilling lesson! Stay tuned.

Ryan

March 27, 2022

Ryan’s Top Tips for Brewing Incredible Coffee at Home

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Ryan pours coffee at Culinary Crafts catering event Ten years ago, I set out to learn everything I could about making a perfect cup of coffee. I experimented with roasts, blends, and brewing styles from all over the world. I bought grinders, tampers, boilers, steamers…all the paraphernalia you can imagine. Most of that equipment is just décor in my home now, but a few of the lessons I learned, I still use. In this article, I want to boil down everything I learned into a few simple, affordable tips for brewing incredible coffee at home. Unground coffee beans spilled on table

Use fresh beans.

How important is it to use fresh coffee beans? Let me put it this way: I’d rather have coffee improvised with a sock, an old pot, and a campfire if I get to grind my favorite beans fresh each morning, versus coffee from the latest expensive brewing machine using pre-ground, stale beans. As with all food, the ingredients matter much more than the tools.

Short science lesson: When beans are roasted, they go through a chemical change called the Malliard reaction. Not only does it turn the beans dark brown, it also creates aromatic compounds in the beans that give coffee its distinct taste and smell. But here’s the catch. The moment beans are roasted, those aromatic compounds start to fade away. After a few weeks the beans simply won’t smell or taste as good. Once beans have lost those compounds, there’s only one way to save the coffee: dump out that hot mess and start over with some fresh beans.

Have you noticed that beans off the grocery store shelf don’t print the date of when they were roasted? That’s because grocery store coffee is almost always past its freshness window. Sure, they can vacuum pack the beans and keep them fresh a little longer, but you can’t count on grocery store beans to be in their prime. Your best bet is to buy fresh-roasted whole beans from a local roaster. Or you can try one of the subscription services that will send you fresh-roasted beans every few weeks. If you’re feeling ambitious you can roast your own, but that’s the subject for another blog.

If beans are past their fresh date, they can still be used to make pretty good coffee if you cold brew them! But don’t waste your really good beans on cold brew. The best a cold brew will ever give you is pretty good coffee.

Pro Tip:
For the absolute freshest beans, buy local. We have some fantastic roasters along the Wasatch Front including Publik, Pink Elephant, Blue Copper, and La Barba (which is sold at Harmons).

If you want an extraordinary experience with a coffee genius, visit John Piquet at Caffe D’Bolla. You’ll quickly see why I treasure all the time I’ve spent there! His regular menu on the wall only offers espresso drinks, but ask for the siphon menu.  John roasts all his coffee in house.  The nuanced flavors you'll experience in both the the espresso and the siphon coffee at Caffe D'bolla are because of the roasting. As John says, "It's the single most important aspect of my craft."   kinu grinder for brewing incredible coffee at home

Grind your beans just before you brew.

Grinding beans greatly increases the amount of surface area that’s exposed. Exposing more surface area means you'll get a lot more flavor out of the ground beans when you brew them. Unfortunately, as soon as beans are ground, they’ll start losing their aromatic compounds at a much faster rate. So if you’re trying to get the best-tasting cup of coffee, it makes sense to grind them only when you’re ready to brew.

One piece of equipment that’s worth investing in is a burr grinder. Unlike regular blade grinders that just bash the beans into random-sized pieces, a burr grinder mills the beans between two grinding plates until the pieces are all a uniform size. With a regular grinder, you’ll have tiny bits of bean that get overexposed during the brew, giving the coffee a bitter, sludgy taste. At the same time you’ll also have larger pieces that won’t be exposed enough, adding a sour, acidic taste. If you use a burr grinder, all the bits will be the same size, so you can get a consistent flavor. You may have to try some practice runs to find the perfect grind for your machine, but whatever size of grounds you’re aiming for, a burr grinder will help you hit it precisely and consistently.

Pro Tip:
You can spend thousands of dollars on a burr grinder, but the Kinu hand grinder, at around $200, is my favorite. 1Zpresso and Helor make comparably great grinders. For lower budgets, the Hario Skerton Pro is a good ceramic grinder. It’s not the greatest, but at around $60, it may be the best value for the price. steaming cup of coffee in white mug on saucer

Use the right water temperature.

To extract the best flavors out of your coffee, you should brew with water between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Below 195 degrees, you won’t get enough flavor from the coffee. Above 205 you’ll scorch the beans and get bitter chemicals that should have been left in the beans. Perfect brewing involves finding that temperature “sweet” spot.

If you’re boiling your own water, you may need to let it cool a bit before you start your brew. Remember, water naturally boils at 212 degrees at sea level, and the boiling point gradually decreases as you go up in elevation. If you live above 4,000 feet in elevation (as we do here in Utah), you can pour boiling water straight over your beans, since our water boils at 204 degrees. The lower your elevation is below 4,000 feet, the longer you’ll need to let your water cool before you brew.

Pro Tip:
One thing I learned from John Piquet is that the taste of coffee changes at different temperatures. If you drink your coffee too hot, it may smell great but it won’t taste its best. John encourages his customers to begin sipping their coffee when it cools to around 155 degrees, which is the first point the flavors can truly dominate the heat. Then enjoy the changing range of flavors as the coffee gradually cools. Chef Ryan Crafts teaches a class on how to make a perfect cup of coffee

Find the right ratio of coffee to water.

In addition to temperature, the amount of water you use also affects the brewing process. The more water you use, the weaker the coffee will be. Finding the right balance of coffee and water (a.k.a. the “brew ratio”) is key to making a perfect cup of coffee.

Personally, I use 240 grams of water for every 15 grams of coffee, a ratio of 16:1. You’ll want to experiment with that ratio depending on how rich you want your coffee to be. As you’re experimenting, try to be as consistent as possible in your measurements. This brings us to the second piece of equipment that’s worth investing in, a digital scale. It’s impossible to control exactly how much ground coffee fits into a scoop, but a digital scale will allow you to measure by weight, giving you a precise and accurate measurement every time.

Pro Tip:
There’s an ongoing debate about what kind of water (tap, bottled, filtered, etc.) makes the best coffee. My two cents: unless you’re doing espresso, the type of water usually doesn’t make much difference. But I don’t recommend using distilled water. Just like food is enhanced by a little salt, a perfect brew needs a small amount of minerals in the water, ideally around 150 parts per million. Distilled water is too pure and will make your coffee taste bland. Coffee makers and equipment at Culinary Crafts coffee class

Bloom your coffee.

If you grind fresh beans just before you brew, you might notice that the coffee grounds appear to bubble when they first touch water. What you’re seeing is CO2 gas escaping from the beans, a phenomenon called “the bloom.” If you don't get rid of that gas before you start your brew, the CO2 can form a kind of blanket around the coffee grounds, preventing them from brewing properly. To bloom your beans, pour a little water over the grounds. Then give them a gentle stir so that all the grounds get wet, and wait for about 30 seconds for the gas to leave. Use about twice as much water as there is coffee grounds. In other words, if you’re starting with 40 grams of grounds, use about 80 grams of water in your bloom.

Over the years, I tried a lot of techniques and technologies in my quest to brew the perfect cup. Most of them turned out to be more time-consuming or expensive than they’re worth. But these five tips I’ve discussed are simple, tried, and true, and I guarantee that if you give them a try, you’ll taste a dramatic difference. I should warn you that once you’ve tasted how good your home-brewed coffee can be, it may spoil you. You’ll have a hard time forking over $6 at Starbucks when, for 50 cents, you can brew something much better at home.

Enjoy!

January 20, 2022

Getting Married in the Middle of a Pandemic? Innovative Ways to Make Your 2022 Wedding Spectacular and Safe

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Outdoor, micro-wedding, vows, safe and sensational wedding celebration Planning a wedding in the midst of a pandemic presents unique challenges but also incredible opportunities. If you hear wedding bells in the near future, here are some hints for how to create a safe and sensational celebration.

Think big by thinking small

outdoor, micro-wedding, white lights, create a safe wedding celebration.You may have to get innovative. Hot tip: Micro-weddings are the new posh. By trimming the guest list you can reduce crowding while relaxing your budget at the same time. Brides are starting to realize what mind-blowing experiences they can create for 20 guests instead of 200. In the last year we’ve seen small weddings in the middle of the Salt Flats and light tunnels created in the middle of a forest. We've served 10 course meals and even catered a dinner under a waterfall. With a smaller number of intimate friends and family, you’re free to open your imagination and entertain your most elusive dreams.  

Weigh and minimize risks in advance

Kimble Terrace, bubble, event, Culinary Drafts You owe it to your guests to identify risk factors and take reasonable precautions to minimize them.  If asking Grandma to fly in from out of state poses too much risk, consider setting up a Zoom or Google hangout for guests who can’t attend in person. For those who do come, think about ways to encourage social distancing and reduce traffic congestion. A lot of couples are finding incredible outdoor venues.  But if you need to be inside, implement a crowd-control design that prevents “clumping.” Consider providing private dining areas for your guests such as bubble tents, igloos, or simple separate table-spaces. Traditional self-service buffets can be replaced by safer options like boxed meals or a dessert drive-thru. Recently, a charcuterie served in pre-portioned bamboo cones was a huge hit.

Communicate expectations

pandemic, micro wedding, lesbian indian couple, lgbt, henna, brides Whatever safety plan you choose for your celebration, as the host it’s up to you to communicate your expectations to your guests. A classy insert with your invitation can let people know in advance whether they’ll need to do a temperature check on arrival, show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, wear a mask, or whatever precautions you decide are appropriate. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone: you can’t. Everyone’s situation is different. If you communicate clearly and let people know what to expect, they’ll be able to make their own choices about how to celebrate your day with you.  

Customize

pandemic, public health, signage, wedding, customized, masks Invitations, favors, and place cards are all pretty standard for a wedding. But the pandemic blew open a door for creating new items to customize! Masks, sanitizer, soap, towels, water, or even social distancing/selfie sticks can be practical and personal. Our favorite customized gifts are fun “in sickness and health packages” which sometimes include a hangover kit.             

Get help

Caterer, event planner, River Bottoms Ranch, mask, Covid The best way to enjoy your big day while staying safe is to hire a social coordinator. Your event planner or day-of coordinator may be perfect for the job. Along with a trained catering team, your social coordinator will direct traffic, answer questions, and make sure that everyone has a safe and spectacular experience. Meanwhile, you'll be free to relax and enjoy the day you've planned and waited for so long.

December 22, 2021

December Recipe of the Month: Chocolate Reindeer Donuts

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chocolate donuts, doughnuts, cake donuts, baked donuts, christmas, holiday, reindeer, cranberry, pretzel, pinecone, winter, cinnamonThese chocolate reindeer donuts are as delicious as they are adorable. Be sure to save one for yourself before they fly away "like the down of a thistle!"

Ingredients

Donuts

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  •  1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces local dark chocolate: our favorites are Ritual's Mid Mountain Blend, Amano's Dos Rios, or Solstice's Madagascar. You can pick these up from your local Harmons.

Decorations

  • 12 cranberries
  • 12 pretzels
  • 24 candy eyes

Equipment

  • donut pan
  • 2 piping bags
  • cooling rack

Directions

  1. To make donuts: Preheat oven to 350°. Grease pan and set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together sour cream, melted butter, and sugars until combined. Stir in vanilla and one egg at a time.
  4. Gently fold the flour mixture into wet ingredients and mix by hand just until combined.
  5. Fill a piping bag with batter and fill donut pan 2/3 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 3-5 minutes, then remove from pan.
  7. To make the ganache: In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir until smooth. Set aside for 15-20 minutes until ganache has cooled and thickened a bit.
  8. To make the buttercream for decoration: In a mixing bowl, mix together butter and sugar, add milk and vanilla. Mix on high for 3 minutes. Put into a piping bag and cut a very small hole at the end. Set aside.
  9. To assemble chocolate reindeer donuts: Dip donuts into the ganache, then place on a cooling rack until ganache sets.
  10. Place eyes, and cranberry in the center as the nose.
  11. Break/cut pretzels in half, length-wise for antlers.
Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

December 17, 2021

De-stress Your Christmas Cooking

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Christmas dinner, place setting catering, christmas table, table setting, christmas decor, holiday dinner, beef, meat, carved, centerpieceWith all the isolation and stress of the last year, 2021 may be a more important time than ever to sit down with loved ones and share a Christmas meal. Unfortunately, the pressure of making a memorable holiday meal can kick a cook’s stress level up several more notches. If planning and preparing your Christmas feast is feeling like one burden too many, don’t worry: we’ve got you! Here are our favorite tips to de-stress your Christmas cooking.

1. Think ahead.
mis en place, christmas cooking, holiday cooking, christmas dinner, meal, grean beans, fried onions, preparations, stress free, easy
Do as much as you can in advance so that when the day comes, you can spend most of your focus on the people you’re doing it all for.

• Shop early. Don’t plan on going to the store after December 20; it’s a zoo! Plan in advance and avoid the crush.
• "Mis en place" all your recipes. Mis en place is a French term meaning “everything in place.” It is the practice of measuring out all the ingredients for a recipe and doing any other preparation that you can do in advance. For example, mix your drinks and dressings beforehand. Peel potatoes and leave them in water in the fridge. Prepare vegetables on sheet pans so they are ready for the oven, wrapped in plastic wrap and stacked in the fridge, etc.
• Make your centerpiece, move the furniture, wrap the presents, and set the table as soon as you can. Actually, now! Don't wait.

2. Simplify what can be simplified.
gingerbread decorating man station kids holiday party
As foodies dedicated to our craft, we have a hard time telling others (or even ourselves) to use the shortcuts that modern society has created for meal production because the longer, scenic route of cooking and creating a dining experience is a beautiful labor of love that you can taste with every bite. However, that labor can be a bit much on Christmas morning with a family of kids hyped up on sugar and presents, rampaging with their loud new toys while you’re trying to clean up before guests arrive. One of the best ways to de-stress your Christmas cooking is to simplify where you can.

• Dice the onions: This is one of the most time-consuming steps, especially because so many recipes start with sautéed onions. You can do this in advance. Put them in a bowl and keep them in the refrigerator or freeze them. Or simplify even more by just buying onions already frozen and diced.
• Buy the ham. Seriously. They come spiral cut and glazed, and they are delicious. Don't kill yourself making one from scratch; there are better things to do with your time. Just remember to order and pick it up early.
• If bread-making is your forte and you are not tapped from holiday baking by the time you get to December 25th, spectacular! Try making, shaping, and freezing your bread dough in advance. Then, day of, just remove from freezer and bake. But if you don’t have that kind of time and energy, take advantage of local artisan bread options that can make your Christmas meal-prep much easier. Eva’s Bakery, Mims Bakery, Flourish Bakery, and Harmon’s artisan bread section are all great go-tos.
• Desserts are a similar situation. It’s beautiful to share any of your homemade sweets, but you can also simplify by trying out one of your excellent local artisans who make delicious desserts. A few of our favorites are Grapefruit & Thyme, Cache Toffee, Les Madeleines, Gourmandise, Flour & Flourish, Cake by Alessandra, and Tulie Bakery.

3. Give yourself a gift.
Ceramic Olive Oil Cruet and Salt Cellar
We’re not speaking metaphorically about being kind to yourself and not expecting the impossible (although, yes, you should give yourself a break). We’re talking about literally gifting yourself something this year, one labor-saving piece of equipment that will make life easier for you in the kitchen. If you need ideas, we have a few suggestions.

4. Delegate (or, better yet, share).
family black cooking for christmas dinner holiday meal sharing, experience, kitchen
Some cooks want to do it all by themselves. Believe us, we get that. But as tempting at it is to take the burden on yourself and be the Christmas kitchen god, it can be important for kids, spouses, and guests to have a hand in making the meal.

Remember: It’s not about the food; it’s about the experience. You’re not just feeding bellies; you’re helping create meaningful memories. We all know that turning part of the meal over to someone else can often create as much work and stress for you as it relieves, but don’t lose sight of the big picture. That grandson who messes up half the napkins he folds may not be saving you much time, but think about what he’s learning, the confidence he’s gaining, and the memories he’s making. We guarantee that the feelings and experience he gets from making a meaningful contribution will stay with him a lot longer than the mashed potatoes and gravy.

But how can you delegate part of the Christmas meal tasks without creating more headache for yourself?

• Have someone else bring dessert, salad, entrée, sides, or whatever parts of the meal you choose. If any of your guests have a specialty dish, consider giving them a chance to shine.
• Prepare a list of helpful things people could do when they arrive. Most people welcome a chance to be helpful if they know how to do it without getting in the way. Instead of waiting for them to ask and then scrambling to think of something for them to do, have it written down. The list could include things like
-- filling waters and pitchers on tables
--pouring cocktails
--adding crackers/chocolate/room temp things to your charcuterie board or appetizers
--pouring cocktails
--mixing mashed potatoes
--watching the turkey/ham, rolls, etc. in the oven
--mixing salad
--whipping cream
--doing dishes
• Have all your platters and serving utensils picked out and labeled so when people are helping they aren't scrambling to see what platter is for what item.
• If people are arriving early to help, leave a recipe with your mis en placed plates and have them follow the directions.

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Realistically, there may not be any such thing as a stress-free Christmas meal (unless you follow the Japanese Christmas custom and just order a bucket of chicken from KFC). But if you do what you can to de-stress your Christmas cooking, you'll minimize the anxiety and maximize the meaning of the experience.

We hope your Christmas is joyous and delicious.

Happy eating!

September 30, 2021

September Recipe of the Month: Grilled Peach Salad

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Grilled peaches, burrata, prosciutto, salad, recipe, blog The end of summer is full of such delicious produce. Check out this grilled peach salad and make the most of our local flavors. Ingredients
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 oz Creminelli prosciutto (sliced into small strips)
  • 1 fresh local peach
  • 1-4 oz burrata ball
  • 1/2 cup vanilla vinaigrette - find the recipe here.
  • 1 T butter, melted
Directions
  • Wash your peach, slice in half, remove the pit.
  • Brush melted butter on the peach halves. Put cut side down on your grill for about 4 minutes on medium heat.
  • Remove from grill and slice.
  • Toss arugula, spinach, and prosciutto together.
  • With hands, tear the burrata ball into 4-6 pieces and gently place burrata pieces and peach slices on top of the salad.
  • Drizzle with dressing.
  • Enjoy.

August 17, 2021

August Recipe of the Month: homemade granola bars

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utah events outdoor, utah wedding, candle light mountainsutah catering, list of utah caterers, catering in Utah, environmentally friendly company, awarded catering company, Torch, chef, Ryan Crafts, Knife, cutting board, granola bar, wrapped twine, homemade, custom Make back-to-school month delicious with this homemade granola bars snack!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup rice krispies
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Utah kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup Utah honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional add-ins
    • 1/2 cup diced dried fruit
    • 1/2 cup chunks of your favorite chocolate - Utah is home to some of the world's best craft chocolates.
    • 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Parchment line a 9x9" glass pan leaving 1 to 2" of overhang on all 4 sides. Spray with cooking spray, and set aside.
  3. Place 1/2 cup of oats in the food processor and pulse until a rough flour texture.
  4. In a medium bowl, put ground oats, whole oats, rice krispies, baking soda, salt, and any additional add-ins. Gently toss until combined.
  5. In a small saucepan, combine coconut oil and honey. Stir over low heat until oil is melted and honey is complete dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  6. Pour honey mixture over oats and gently stir until evenly coated.
  7. Pour granola into prepared pan. Pressing firmly, spread evenly across pan.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.
  9. While the granola is still warm, using parchment overhang, gently remove from pan. Cut with large knife into 8 2" x 4"  pieces.
  10. Let cool completely, then wrap and store. Homemade granola bars are good for up to 3 weeks.
Eat Well.

June 28, 2021

July Recipe of the Month: Grilled Trout

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This recipe is perhaps our most iconic perrenial staple at Culinary Crafts. We use it on thousands of Riverence Ruby Red Trout fillets each summer, though it works equally well on any fish you're planning to grill. The recipe is delibarately simple - the marinade is only intended to subtly support the primary flavors: the fish and the fire.

Ingredients:

  • 6 trout fillets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (Redmond's REAL Salt is a CC favorite)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)*

Directions

  • In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, garlic, dill, salt, and pepper flakes.
  • Pour mixture over your trout fillets and rub on all sides until evenly coated.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours prior to grilling.
  • Grill your fish over medium high heat to your desired doneness. Garnish as desired.**
  • Enjoy immediately!

*Liquid smoke can be added to the wet rub mixture if you won't be grilling your fish, but still want that note of smoke flavor. Be careful adding this - a little goes a long way.

**Depending on your side dishes and personal tastes, your grilled fish can be perfect just as it comes off the grill. But you may wish to add a sauce or accoutrement as a finishing touch. Strawberry or peach salsas are both wonderful options, stewed and spiced tomatoes are fantastic, and this green apple chutney is our crowd favorite.

If you're new to grilling or otherwise intimiated by cooking with a live fire, check our Ryan's grilling 101 post with lots of helpful info, tips, and tricks .

Eat well.

May 27, 2021

May Recipe of the Month: Cornbread with Utah honey butter

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Cornbread with Utah honey butter is a staple at the Crafts' family gatherings and the perfect pairing for any barbeque you will host this summer. Eat Well. Cornbread in skillet, plated, white, salted butter, Utah catered plated meal, bread, butter, salt, salted, sage, white plate

Cornbread Ingredients

makes 16 pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 8 oz creamed corn

Directions

  1. Place cold cast iron skillet in cold oven and set to heat oven to 400 F.*
  2. Whisk buttermilk, butter, and eggs in a large bowl.
  3. Sift flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and soda in a separate bowl.
  4. After oven has reached 400, add 2 tbs oil to the hot cast iron skillet in the oven.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently fold together just until incorporated.
  6. Remove the hot skillet with oil from the oven. Pour in the batter (the edges should begin to fry in the oil). Return skillet to oven and reduce heat to 375.
  7. Bake on the middle shelf for 20-30 minutes until lightly golden on top and a toothpick can be inserted and come out clean.
  8. Serve warm with honey butter!
*This method of pouring the batter into a preheated skillet so the edges get extra crispy is our favorite for cornbread. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, or prefer a lighter crust, simply use a standard 9 x 13 pan and preheat the oven to 375 without the pan as the first step.

Utah Honey Butter Ingredients

Directions
  • In your mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment whip butter for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
  • add honey, salt, and cinnamon, mix until combined
Enjoy this Cornbread with Utah honey butter recipe. Check our more about Salt Lake City, Park City, and Utah County's best catering company at www.culinarycrafts.com! Eat Well.

April 20, 2021

April Recipe of the Month: Pasta Primavera

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This light and fresh - yet somehow still rich and savory - pasta is perfect for springtime!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup parmesan (or substitute Beehive Cheese shredded blend)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • fresh ground pepper
  • salt
  • ~
  • 1 bunch asparagus - cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 cup fresh spring peas
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ~
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta (farfalle, penne, etc. are perfect substitutes)
  • dry white wine (optional)
  • lemon juice
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Directions

  1. Make a simple pesto by processing basil, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add cheese and pulse until desired consistency is reached. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. In a large dutch oven or wide stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add asparagus, peas, and leeks. Cook until crisp and tender - approximately 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for approximately 1 more minute. Move vegetables to plate and set aside. Lightly wipe out pot.
  3. In the same dutch oven or pot, cook your pasta per the package instructions until al dente (typically 7-10 minutes). For an extra layer of flavor, you can substitute dry white wine for 25-40% of the total cooking liquid. Strain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  4. Gently mix cooked vegetables into the pasta. Fold in pesto as desired.  Add up to 1 cup of the reserved pasta water to make final dish as saucy as desired. Finish with a light splash of lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy!

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