Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brunch-tastic! (part one)

We have this issue with our family - over celebration.  For the first six months of every year, it seems as though there is a big celebration every weekend.  Birthdays, anniversaries, mother's day, father's day, MAR10, International Star Wars Day...  You name it, we have a cookout for it.  For this mother's day and my father-in-law's birthday, I thought, why not brunch?  Let's do something a little different.  We just had a huge cookout over Easter weekend, so what better way to highlight a mother's undying love for her progeny than by eating a calorie laden meal that also includes a serving of fruit?  I came up with the breakfast menu, Thomas worked on the lunch, and by our powers combined, we rocked the brunch scene!

You've already seen the cupcakes, so there's no point in dwelling on that, but here's a peek at our entire menu...

Starting from the top left (and working around vaguely counter-clockwise): cold meat and cheese platter with a basket of rolls, the maple bacon buttercream topped pancake cupcakes, ham and cheese brunch squares, Mama Gliwa's French Toast Strata, carmalized rosemary pears, asparagus (asparagii?) with a roasted garlic sauce, cold sweet potato salad, grilled rack of lamb, and Edible Arrangement, and a watermelon filled with some yummy punch.

There were 10 of us (plus my 3 year old nephew), and one of the biggest hits was the Ham and Cheese Brunch Squares (thank you, PC).  Even my nephew downed some, and I usually only see him feasting on meat!  It's a little difficult to tell, but the squares were made in the stoneware bar pan.  It not only cooked like a dream, but it cleaned like a dream, too!

Now, please note that the Brunch Squares have generous amounts of hash browns, eggs, bacon (we substituted out the ham), cheese, more cheese, and even cream cheese, tomatoes... anything that you consider a staple of breakfast, it's probably in there!  I was a bit dubious about the clean up of the stoneware - after all it is a porous stone, but PC said it wouldn't be a problem.  In fact, since I actually read up on it before hand, it said...
  • Hand wash in clear, hot water; rinse and dry thoroughly before storing. NOTE: as soap can flavor foods that are baked in Stoneware, it is important that you do not use soap or detergents to clean your Stoneware or wash in an automatic dishwasher using dishwasher detergent. Follow these steps for general and deep cleaning.
Okay, fair enough.  But what if it gets stained?
Deep Cleaning
  • Prepare a baking soda paste by mixing 1/2 cup baking soda with 3 tablespoons water. Apply baking soda paste to desired areas and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Scrape off excess paste using the Nylon Pan Scraper. Rinse and dry thoroughly before storing.
Sweet.  As you can see, I didn't need to deep clean the pan, but no soap?  In this day and age of anti viral/microbal/germythingys, it seemed to me to be a bit much to ask.  I understand you don't want soap to soak into the clay, but to not even grace the pan at all??  I did a little research.  Guess what I found from Rebecca Champlin, who has an MS in Microbiology?  Yeah, I'm going there, so if you're a nerd like me, heads up.  If not, scroll down a bit...
Soap does not sanitize your dishes.  It is simply a releasing agent that allows you to remove the food particles from your dishes easier.  Friction actually does more for removing the bacteria than the soap does.  This is accomplished by rubbing a dish cloth or other cleaning tool over your dishes.  Hot, clear water is the releasing agent for stoneware.  It releases all of the food particles and extra grease from the surface of the stone.  Your pan scraper provides the necessary friction. 

Bacteria need a warm, moist environment to thrive and grow.  That is why it is important to do your dishes as soon as possible to discourage the growth of airborne bacteria on your dishes.  YOU WILL NOT HAVE BACTERIA ON YOUR STONES OR YOUR DISHES IF YOU COOK YOUR FOOD THOROUGHLY. COOKED FOOD DOES NOT CONTAIN BACTERIA!!!!  However, it will grow bacteria if left out too long after cooking it or by not properly storing it in the refrigerator after you finish your meals.  All bacteria known to man are killed at 180 degrees.  Because the stones are porous, the moisture does not stay in them... it dries up very quickly.  If you want to rapidly dry your baking stones, put them in a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes. 

The seasoning on the baking stones (non-stick surface) is caused by the build-up of small amounts of residual oils from your foods. The dark colour of your stones is caused because our stones are made of vitrified clay and the repeated heating and cooling of the stones will darken them.   Our stones have been tested and approved for safe food handling and are acceptable for use in commercial kitchens using the cleaning procedure in the package insert.

Interesting, right?  Love it.  As if I needed more of a reason to believe in this stuff...  So, go ahead, kiddos, dig in.  It's clean, it's easy to clean, and it cooks so nice and evenly that you'll be hooked on the stoneware in no time at all, just like me!

Heads up next time, when I finish going over my part of the bruncheon menu, (and maybe why I also think my new zester is pretty sweet, even if fresh ginger makes me mad...)

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