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Indian Themed Dinner – Saag Paneer

2009 May 21
by Eric Hwang

Saag Paneer

For some strange reason, I picked Indian food for the theme of tonight’s Boys Night In. It has made selecting wines to pair with the food very difficult. It also made a lot of extra work for me since Sheri won’t be home until late tonight to help me with the prep work. This recipe is for Tanya Noel who tweeted that she and her daughter love Saag Paneer after I mentioned on Twitter that I finished making the cheese for this dish. This recipe is adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen International Best Recipes book. This dish is fairly labor intensive because of the cheese. It’s best to make the cheese the day before and refrigerate it until the following day when making the spinach sauce.  For clarification, in the recipe: t = teaspoon, T = tablespoon.

PaneerServes 4 to 6

Cheese (paneer)

3 quarts whole milk (lowfat can be used but not non-fat)
2¼ t. salt
5 T. white vinegar

Line a metal colander with a cheesecloth folded twice (making four layers) and place it in the sink. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk and salt to a boil. Stir in the vinegar, reduce the heat to low and cook for another 30 seconds until the milk is curdled. Pour this mixture through the cheesecloth and allow it to drain and cool for about 10 minutes. Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth to make a pouch. Twist the top of the pouch to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Be careful because it may still be hot. Use rubber gloves if necessary. With the pouch still twisted shut, fold the excess cheesecloth underneath and place to pouch between two tight-fitting large plates. Press on the plate to flatten the pouch. Place a heavy object such as a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven on top and allow the cheese to set at room temperature for about 30 – 40 minutes until the cheese is firm. Remove and discard the cheesecloth and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Spices

1 t. garam masala (McComick is best)
½ t. ground cumin
¼ t. ground cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper

Spinach

2 T. vegetable oil
1 medium onion minced
½ t. salt
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1½ t. minced or grated ginger
2 (10 oz.) packages frozen spinach, thawed
1 large tomato cored, seeded and diced fine
3 cups water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
black pepper

Squeeze the thawed spinach to remove all excess liquid, set aside. Combine the spices. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Add spices and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add onions and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook another 30 seconds. Stir in the spinach, tomato and 2 cups water. Cover and cook until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove about one-third of the spinach mixture and place in a blender with the butter and 1 cup of water. Puree until smooth, about 15 seconds. Return the pureed spinach to the pan and simmer another 5 – 7 minutes until the mixture is no longer watery. Gently fold in the cheese cubes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

I’ll add pictures of the finished dish after I’m done cooking this tonight. Enjoy.

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