Parchment Paper

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by Marlene Condon

July is the month when we celebrate Independence Day. Therefore the typical cooking column in newspapers and magazines at this time of the year is about red, white, and blue desserts. But this July column is about parchment paper for cooking. Here’s how parchment paper ties in with July 4.

When English colonists left their homeland to establish colonies in what would become the United States, they brought charters with them that guaranteed they and their heirs would “have and enjoy all liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects.” These freedoms dated to the 13th century when King John of England authorized that copies of the Magna Carta be handwritten on parchment, affixed with his seal, and read publicly throughout his realm.

The Magna Carta bound the king and his heirs to “forever” grant “to all freemen of our kingdom” the rights and liberties the charter described.

Over 500 years later, representatives of the newly formed United States drafted a constitution based upon the English legal system which itself had evolved from the Magna Carta. Thus the U.S. Constitution is also derived from the Magna Carta.

Indeed, the words on this 17½-inch parchment served as a model for the Declaration of Independence (which we celebrate on July 4) as well as our Bill of Rights. Not surprisingly, the Magna Carta is widely viewed as one of the most important documents in the history of American freedom.

The Magna Carta parchment was sheepskin, but the parchment we use for cooking is made of nonstick silicone-
coated paper that is convenient in many ways for both the home cook and the professional. However, you should keep in mind that the use of this paper does add waste to our landfills; thus you should limit your use of it to those occasions when it’s not just a matter of convenience but rather of necessity.

For example, if you have trouble with your hands as I do (due to rheumatoid arthritis), this paper can be a godsend when cooking. It can be extremely painful to grease baking pans and much easier instead to line a pan with parchment. The use of parchment paper also limits how much scrubbing I need to do afterwards to clean the pan. The less I need to use my hands, the better.

But even if you don’t have pain in your hands, there are times when it makes sense to use parchment paper instead of grease to keep food from sticking to the pan. A good example is when baking cookies or any kind of food in the oven on a cookie sheet. If you grease the entire pan, any area not covered by food will result in sticky cooked grease that is difficult to remove, even after soaking it. The use of parchment paper totally eliminates this difficulty.

Another appropriate time to use parchment paper is when you are cooking food that will stick somewhat to the greased cooking pan or dish anyway and be hard to remove afterwards. Today’s recipe is an example of when you should use parchment paper for this reason.

How the Magna Carta came about: King John had angered the barons under his rule with high taxes, harsh fines and costly unsuccessful wars. The 25 barons, backed by their own armies, demanded that the king reinstate the civil liberties and rights that they had been previously granted by Henry I under the Charter of Liberties.

Rather than deal with an armed revolt, King John met with the barons on June 15, 1215, on the fields of Runnymede near Windsor Castle. He agreed to all the requests of the barons and affixed his seal to the formal grant that later became the Magna Carta.

Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

If you enjoy eating scrambled eggs and have never had them cooked in a microwave oven, you really should try this method. Microwave-cooked scrambled eggs are delightfully fluffy in texture.

For 2 people:

Break 5 large eggs into a 4-cup glass measure. Add a half cup of non-fat milk (or any kind that you wish) and beat with a fork. If desired, you can add a tablespoon of butter or margarine, but since we eat scrambled eggs with a topping, I don’t add any fat.

Pour this mixture into a 1.5-quart casserole dish (about 5 inches square and 3 inches deep) that you have lined with parchment paper. Be sure to cut off any paper that is overhanging the dish as it will burn and could crumble to pieces in the oven, creating the possibility of a fire. Place a glass cover or wax paper over the dish and place it into your microwave oven.

Cook at 80 percent power for 3 minutes, or until egg mixture has fluffed up almost to the top of the dish. Remove the dish carefully from the oven (it will be hot) and take off the cover.

If there is still some liquid egg in the center of the solidified egg mixture, take a fork and pull back the edge of the set eggs so the a part runs over and underneath the solid part. (Note: the solidified egg mixture will deflate a bit once it is out of the oven.)

Re-cover the dish, return it to the microwave oven, and cook again at 80 percent power for 30-60 seconds, just until all of the liquid egg mixture has solidified.

My hubby likes to eat his portion of the eggs with salsa, but I eat mine with ketchup and ground black pepper.