Master craftsman at new culinary, craft school
With the sound of sausage sizzling in a skillet and the aroma of pumpkin and spices wafting from the saucepan simmering on a stove, Debbie Dance Uhrig explains to her attentive audience her cooking philosophy.
“I’m not an exact measurer, once I’ve made it a few times,” she says. “Simple, simple. You don’t have to struggle in the kitchen.”
Uhrig is the master craftsman of culinary arts for Silver Dollar City’s new Culinary and Craft School that opened in September. On a recent Friday morning, she was making Pumpkin Sausage Soup for the class of about 30 guests.
She refers to the demonstration kitchen as “the house” and her warmth radiates throughout the large room filled with items created by other master craftsmen at Silver Dollar City. Uhrig goes through a mental list giving credit to the coppersmith, potter and carpenter for their contributions.
As she pulls the soup together, she offers tips: don’t buy a pumpkin that weighs more than five pounds for cooking; try the manchego cheese grated on the top–it’s wonderful. The idea of the cheese came after she’d made the soup a few times.
“The first time you make something, stick to the recipe. Then tweak it,” she says.
After dishing out samples of the wonderful, comforting soup–which Uhrig says is a Thanksgiving staple at her home–she moves on to the next recipe, her grandma’s apple salad. As she deftly slices apples that are soaking in diluted pineapple juice (it helps the apples keep their fresh color), Uhrig shares a family story of how she and other grandkids loved this salad because they got the leftover orange candy that is diced into the mix. In just a few minutes, she is passing out samples of the crunchy, sweet salad to the class, which now seems more like a room full of friends.
After the kitchen clears, I confess to Uhrig that she has my dream job. She smiles, knowingly, and says “I have every woman’s dream job. And it’s a God thing how I got to be here.”
“I love to cook, I love to teach and I love to entertain, so the culinary classes will include great recipes, easy-to-follow instructions, delicious samples and a lot of fun,” Uhrig says.
The plan seems to be working, as Uhrig already sees repeat guests in her kitchen, which has been open about a month. Seeing folks come back is one of the rewards to her new job. One of the challenges is coming up with inventive recipes that various guests will enjoy. Next year, she’s introducing dishes for vegetarians and for people with dietary needs. Next year also will offer a greater variety of dishes in the culinary classes, and of course, the craft classes will alternate with cooking in the same space.
But for the remainder of this year, Uhrig is working on recipes to include pies, cookies, pumpkin and harvest skillets, a perfect blend for the upcoming holidays.
“Allow your guests to have ownership of the meal,” she says. “They have ownership if they are allowed to participate and bring something or help.
“When I prepare for a performance, I select a piece of music the audience will recognize. It gives them something to hook into.”
Whoa. A lightbulb moment for those of us who always say “oh no, you don’t have to bring anything.” I learned something this morning.
“Learning is an everyday thing,” Uhrig says with a smile.
Deborah Reinhardt Palmer is managing editor for AAA Midwest Traveler and AAA Southern Traveler magazines.
|Nov/Dec 2008 Issue
The new Culinary & Craft School. Silver Dollar City photo
Pumpkin Sausage Soup
Brown and finely crumble the sausage in a skillet. Drain sausage. Saute the onion in the sausage drippings.
Serves 6–8 one-cup portions
Pumpkin Carrot Cake Cheesecake
For carrot cake: 1 box Duncan Hines® Decadent Carrot Cake (reserve 1/2 cup of dry mix, set aside)
For cheesecake: 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
For frosting: 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
For salad: Granny Smith and Gala apples (estimate the number of apples to the number of servings you need)
For dressing: 1 regular size tub of Cool Whip
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