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Jan 17, 201310:21 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

How to Make Paneer

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Robert Peyton is out this week, so please enjoy this post, originally published April 7, 2011, on his personal blog Appetites.


I am an odd man. This will come as no surprise if you’ve read this website over the last nine years or so, but the specific bit of oddness that prompted this post was a compulsion I had on Saturday to make Paneer. Paneer is a fresh cheese used in Indian cooking. It is simple to make; there are only two ingredients. It does take some time If you want a firm cheese, but it doesn’t require your attention for more than a few minutes.


I ended up making saag paneer last night, and I was pleased with the result. I also made naan, but my 550 degree oven and pizza stone were a poor substitute for a real tandoor. More about the saag and the naan in a bit; first, here’s how to make Paneer:


1/2 gallon whole milk
4 tbs. lemon juice


Heat the milk slowly until it just comes to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on the surface. When the milk comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. The milk will separate into curds and whey almost immediately.


Line a colander with enough cheesecloth that it drapes over the sides; you’ll want to wrap the cheese in the cloth. Set the colander over a large bowl and strain the curds and whey. Let the cheese drain for an hour or so, then remove the cheese – still in the cheesecloth – and place it between two plates with a heavy weight on top. After around three or four hours the cheese should have firmed up to the point where you can cut it into batons or cubes.


In the past, I’ve discarded the whey, but yesterday I did some searching and found a number of websites which suggested using it in place of milk for baking. I substituted whey for half of the milk called for in the recipe I used. The bread turned out pretty well, though not as pliable as I’d have liked.


I looked through a few cookbooks and online for a recipe for saag, but eventually I just improvised. I started by sauteeing a small diced onion in butter. When it was softened, I added about a teaspoon of flour. I let that cook for a bit, then added around two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger, the same amount of minced jalapeno, and a minced garlic clove. After five minutes or so I added some ground toasted cumin, a little ground coriander, a little ground cardamom, and some garam masala. I seasoned with salt, and then added a large (11 oz.) container of baby spinach and a half-bunch of chopped cilantro. I added around a quarter cup of water, and let it cook on low for around 15 minutes. While that was cooking, I browned the cubed paneer in butter. I put the spinach mixture into my food processor and got it to the consistency of a thick sauce, then returned it to the (now cleaned) pot with some heavy cream to simmer. I added the paneer about five minutes before serving, to warm through. I thought it turned out very well, though I may experiment the next time I make the dish by adding other greens to the spinach.


If you’ve got any other uses for whey, please let me know. Also, if you have made naan in a big green egg, I’d love to hear your experience.

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene


Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived in New Orleans his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.




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