Recipe Advice?

Okay, I could use some advice from my friends who cook. I made this Indian dinner a few nights ago--the chicken was leftovers, and the red lentils were quite tasty. But this was my first attempt at saag paneer, and I was disappointed with the results--not disastrous--it was still good eating. But it made me sad because saag paneer is one of my favorite Indian dishes--I'd like to be able to make it at home. I bought a block of paneer at the local Indian grocery store (thanks Dan!), and have wanted to try it out. Also, many thanks to AJ for the garam masala that I'm using.

I used this recipe that I found online. First, the flavor seemed a little bit one-note; the tartness/tanginess of the yogurt and buttermilk seemed really dominant. Second, the texture was disappointing--I'm used to saag paneer having this smooth, creamy, puree-like texture; this dish was, well, cooked spinach that had some chew to it. I'm assuming that Indian restaurants achieve this without the use of a stick blender.

Some potential problems with my preparation technique. When I first created the mix of buttermilk and yogurt, I heated it enough that it "broke" (i.e., turned into the curd-like portion and liquid), instead of remaining creamy. Second, I was using a relatively flat pan, instead of a pot/saucepan--I'm guessing that as a result, the liquid was only simmering the bottom portion of the spinach. Third, the 20-30 minute stage doesn't say if it should be covered or not--I'm guessing it maybe should have been covered.

So: does anyone have a saag paneer recipe that they have cooked and like? I'm disappointed that the Madhur Jaffrey cookbook that I own doesn't include it. In the meanwhile, I'll be working my way through other recipes I find online.


At 4:13 PM, Anonymous perlick said...

If you find a good recipe, let me know - saag paneer is one of my favorite dishes.

And, dude, a recipe from an Indian restaurant in Houston, Texas? That might be your problem. I mean, Houston ain't exactly a culinary mecca, except maybe for Tex-Mex.

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous chuck said...

Steak, not Tex-Mex.

At 11:58 PM, Blogger j.ho said...

You mentioned it being a bit on the tangy side. Next time, try omitting the buttermilk. Also, ditch the 1/2 + 1/2. In place of both, use heavy cream. You won't need to use an equal volume of cream, go on instinct until it seems right. The cream will give a better body/mouthfeel and milder flavor than the buttermilk. It will also carry the spices better. Also, try straining the yogurt before hand to drain some of the whey out - a denser yogurt will prevent the curry from getting watered down.

You also commented the spinach had some chew to it. Were you using fresh or frozen? I have found frozen spinach to remind me of horse food. Try fresh baby spinach. Steam it in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water or sautee with some ghee. The texture will be much better.

FoodTV.com has a saag paneer recipe from Tyler Florence - I don't know if he knows anything about Indian food, but he's really cute so the recipe must be good.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous bump said...

Oops, let me recover my post that seemed to disappear.

I was suggesting that after the garlic/onion/ginger saute a bit, add the spices before the other stuff. And try throwing in some green or black whole cardamom pods, perhaps some whole cumin. You could experiment with mustard or mustard oil, too.

I also put in a story about how when I came back from visiting Montreal on a trip with Push to his parents' house (I miss you, Push) I came home fired up to cook Indian. Among the things I tried doing in my 8-hour cooking binge were making my own paneer from scratch for the saag. Only after two trips to the market to get another gallon of milk with utterly disappointing lack of cheese coming out in the cheesecloth did I realize I shouldn't have been using 2%. D'oh!


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