Spicy Paneer Fingers with Dates and Almonds
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 12 ounces paneer, (Indian cheese, either store-bought or made from my recipe, recipe follows)
- sliced into 1/2-inch-wide "fingers"
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 dates, pitted and chopped
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Hefty pinch of red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Zest of a lemon
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
- Naan, for serving
- Paneer: Homemade Indian Cheese:
- 8 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed, see Cook's Note*
Grab a large nonstick skillet, pour the olive oil into it and pop it over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Carefully lay the paneer into the pan and cook until golden brown on one side, 1 or 2 minutes (don't be too hasty to flip it though). If it doesn't release from the pan easily, then wait another 30 seconds because it hasn't browned enough.
When the paneer is browned on both sides, remove it to a plate.
Add the shallot and garlic; saute until the shallots are soft.
Add the dates, chicken stock, cinnamon stick and red pepper flakes. Stir together, and then return the paneer to the pan. Make sure the liquid is at a gentle simmer. Cover and cook about 5 minutes.
Check for seasoning. Depending on the chicken stock you used, you may or may not need to add salt and pepper.Paneer: Homemade Indian Cheese:
Line a large colander with a large double layer of cheesecloth, and set it in your sink.
In a large wide pot, bring the milk to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning the bottom (a nonstick pot works really well for this purpose). This will take a little while so be patient!
Add the lemon juice and turn the heat down to low. Stirring gently, you should almost immediately see the curds (white milk solids) and whey (the greenish liquid) separate. Don't fret, this is perfect!
*Cook's Note: If the milk doesn't separate, juice some more lemons and add another tablespoon or two. Boost the heat again and the milk should separate. Stir in a motion that gathers the curds together rather than breaks them up.
Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour the contents into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Gently rinse with cool water to get rid of the lemon flavor. At this point, you could squeeze out some of the liquid, and serve with some honey and some nuts, almost like a fresh ricotta!
Grab the ends of the cheesecloth and twist the ball of cheese to squeeze out the excess whey. Tie the cheesecloth to your kitchen faucet and allow the cheese to drain for about 5 minutes.
Twisting the ball to compact the cheese into a block, place it on a plate with the twisted part of the cheesecloth on the side (this will ensure your block of cheese is nice and smooth!) and set another plate on top. Weigh the second plate down with cans of beans or a heavy pot. Move to the refrigerator and let it sit about 20 minutes.
Yield: Makes 12 ounces of cheese.