According to Anita Jaisinghani, chef and owner of Pondicheri in Houston, one should “go all in” while consuming dairy products if they are going to do so.
She was referring to a recipe for paneer korma that can be found in her newest cookbook, which is titled “Masala: Recipes From India, the Land of Spices.” In order to produce the meal, thick slices of the cheese are roasted in yoghurt and ghee until they are completely bronzed. After that, they are put to a sauce that is made of heavy cream and crushed almonds, and it is flavoured with rose water and cardamom. It’s a mix that skirts the line between plenty and excess, but owing to the tanginess of the yoghurt and ginger paste, it never quite crosses the line into the latter category.
Paneer has always had a special place in Ms. Jaisinghani’s heart. She was born and bred in Gujarat, a state in western India, and then went on to become a chef. At the restaurant, she creates eight-gallon wheels of the mild fresh cheese every few days. Her background is in microbiology. Then she incorporates it into a variety of dishes, such as by simmering it in curries, including it into salads in place of hard croutons, or crumbling it over veggies for a creamy finish.
Her approach of highlighting the milkiness of the cheese was to make the traditional korma dish using cheese instead of the customary meat or veggies.
“It’s dairy with dairy with dairy with dairy,” she remarked. “It’s wonderful, but I can’t say that everyone else will feel the same way.”
However, if you take those same slices of yogurt-roasted paneer and simmer them in a spicy tomato curry, you will have a meal that every cheese fan will like.
According to Ms. Jaisinghani, the most important step in preparing this meal, which she prepares at home, is to bring out the tanginess of the tomatoes, which acts as a counterpoint to the richness of the cheese.
She said that the paneer required an acid since, without it, the dish was quite flavourless.
This may be accomplished by combining grated ginger and garlic with crushed cayenne pepper. Cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric can be added for additional depth.
In spite of the fact that many paneer recipes call for frying the cheese, Ms. Jaisinghani favours roasting it because it results in a taste that is richer, more nuanced, and more caramelised.
It is also simpler since the cheese may be roasted in the oven while the tomatoes are let to slowly boil on the stovetop.
This preliminary roasting is particularly critical, she explained, when using store-bought paneer, which lacks the delicate, milky quality of cheese that is produced at home.
Then, after you have incorporated the roasted paneer into the sauce that is still boiling, it is imperative that you wait at least ten minutes before serving.
She said that if you allow the paneer rest in the hot stew to steam, it would puff up and become pillowy, which is one of the things that she enjoys most about the dish.