Sunday, February 24, 2008

Paper Lids

I've come to appreciate the parchment paper lid over the last few weeks. We often cook things (usually cut vegetables) using a small amount of water (sometimes just the water already in them) where we want to gently steam them until any water we've added and most of the water in the food being cooked has been removed. The parchment paper lid, made by cutting a piece of parchment paper into a circle the size of your pan (by folding the paper like you did to cut out snowflakes in elementary school you can cut it to size in about 10 seconds), is more convenient in a lot of situations than a "real" lid. It offers a couple of advantages. Most importantly, it allows you to see and hear what's going on in your pan without removing it. You can go about other tasks, and if your food begins to dry out and brown, you will hear it begin to pop with the sound of sautéing instead of the sweating or steaming you want. With a real lid, you would not detect this without periodically stopping whatever you're doing to lift the lid and peek in for a moment. If you do hear your food cooking too quickly or overheating, one of the things you can do to prevent browning that you don't want is add a bit of water to your pan. The parchment lid lets you get water into the pan without removing the lid, because the water will run over the sides of your lid down to the bottom. It doesn't sound like that big a deal, but when you're busy and you don't have a free hand to lift a lid or a place to set it down if you remove it from the pan, being able to see and hear and react to what's happening in your pans without having to handle any hot lids can save you a lot of time. Finally, there is the obvious advantage of having fewer lids to wash when you're finished cooking.

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