Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer

First off Epicurious. com is my savior sometimes, second I love Indian food; it has a complexity and simplicity that creates a culinary tension and an almost layered profile of taste. I love the directive and time honored order of spices, produce and proteins in Indian cooking. Something magical happens in Indian cooking when flavors are carefully curated.

So on a cold Sunday night; I decided to make my own “interpretation” of Indian food. I say interpretation because I don’t claim to be an expert on Indian food and I am sure that I bastardized it by buying a prepared Tikka Masala sauce for the chicken; and also making by making two of the most commercialized Indian dishes. However; this is often the case when your strapped for time. As I promised you full disclosure is number one on this blog; forgive me. The awesome thing is that I did splurge in one area and it turned out to be super fun and easy; I made my own homemade paneer.

Paneer is the cows milk cheese used in dishes such as Saag Paneer or Palak Paneer. The cheese is ricotta-like in taste and is easily made by boiling milk and adding lemon juice or an acid of your choice; I prefer lemon juice. The next steps involve stirring and corralling the curds from the whey then straining it all through cheese cloth to collect the curds. Make sure to squeeze out all of the liquid from the curds and let the tightly wrapped cheese cloth hang over the sink for a while if needed. Once the curds are drained fairly well start shaping the cheese like play-doh to form a patty shape that will need to be pressed by two heavy objects. I used two heavy cutting boards to press the paneer. I waited for about 20 minutes to let it set and then cut it into cubes to fry before adding it to the Saag Paneer. You can let your cheese sit for much longer than 20 minutes if desired; I have read  recipes where it sat for up to 14 hours or more; time equals textural change and softness versus firmness. The Tikka Masala can be spicy ( I add Habanero peppers to mines)  If you have issues with spice prepare a simple Raita (Indian yogurt sauce) to help cool the palate.  I have included recipes below for the dishes that can be served with Naan, flatbread and or rice.

So the next time your lost about what too make for dinner and you want to challenge yourself; try Indian food; I guarantee you will love it.

Recipes Courtesy of Epicurious.Com:

Chicken Tikka Masala

Saag Paneer





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