Sunday, October 12, 2014

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer was probably the first Indian dish I ever ate, eons ago at some long-forgotten Indian restaurant, maybe in Washington, D.C. but the actually site and name were never captured by my brain. What was captured was the silky deliciousness of creamed spinach, Indian style. It seemed as if the spices were other-worldly, the combination so foreign and yet incredibly comforting. Where had this cuisine been all of my life? I was hooked! (Paneer was a whole other revelation on it own.)

Over the years since that first taste, palak paneer was usually my first choice when dining at Indian places and later the first Indian dish I tried to recreate on my own. I posted about it here but this updated version with some addition spices is so much flavorful it was worth a new post. Also, in the past I didn't even bother trying to find paneer in a grocery store and used tofu instead. Much to my chagrin I never tried to make it until recently. Those days are done for good since making it at home is so simple! Now I have to restrain myself from making it allllll the time!

Incidentally, Saag Paneer is just like palak paneer, only saag is "greens" and palak means spinach. But I call it palak no matter what I make it with since it's what is better known and my diners don't seem to notice the difference.

And yes, in case you were wondering, that is homemade naan in the top of the photo, which will be in a forthcoming post; it just felt like too much to add to this one, which already is a fairly long recipe. Something to look forward to!

Homemade Paneer in Palak Paneer 
(serves 2-3)

 2 bunches spinach (cooks down to 1 1/2 cups, you can substitute frozen)
1/2 serrano pepper, deseeded and deveined
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
1 inch piece cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 tablespoon dried methi (fenugreek leaves) (optional but authentic
1/2 cup onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter, ghee or olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk or half and half
salt to taste

1/2 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

To make paneer, heat whole milk in large pot over medium heat until it reaches 180 degrees. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice, stirring 2-3 times to distribute juice. Allow milk to curdle for 5 minutes. Stir again to make sure all milk has curdled; the liquid leftover should be a greyish clear liquid. Pour into a cheesecloth lined strainer and allow to drain for 3 minutes. Wrap curds in ball and squeeze out some liquid. Twist ends together and secure with a twist tie and then tie to the faucet of the sink with the tails of the cheesecloth and allow to drain for 5 minutes. Remove paneer from cloth and place on a plate and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. At this point you can shape it into a square that is 1 inch thick.

Remove paneer from refrigerator and cut into bite size pieces. Dry each piece with paper towels or a dish cloth. Heat ghee or oil in a frying pan and sear the paneer to give it a crust, frying it for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside. Don't skip this step, it helps the paneer hold its shape when its heating in the palak.

Puree cooked spinach with serrano, garlic and ginger until smooth, adding a tablespoon of water at a time to get a smooth puree. In sauce pan, heat butter until it melts and add cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add asafoetida powder, dried methi and saute another 2 minutes. Add minced onion and cook 3-4 minutes until softened. Add spinach mixture and turn heat down to medium. Cook spinach mixture for 7-8 minutes until it absorbs flavors. Turn down to simmer and milk or half and half and garam masala to taste and cook another minute. Add seared paneer and heat for 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Breakfast Crostini at Eats Well With Others
Lemongrass Miso Soup at 101 Cookbooks
Roasted Vegetable Pasta at Sidewalk Shoes

No comments: