Naya’s Roasted Paneer – A Recipe of Rimple Nayyar & Jay Knickerbocker

Paneer is a soft, warm, mild cheese with lovely Indian spice and a touch of heat! This is served as an appetizer at Naya in Grand Rapids.

This dish involves a couple steps that must be done at least 24 hours in advance. Ingredients for the Paneer cheese and the Clarified butter are:

Paneer Cheese: ½ gallon Whole milk ½ pint Heavy cream 4 ounces Goat cheese 1 cup Unseasoned rice vinegar 3 cups Water Cheese Cloth

Sauce for the Paneer Cheese

2 Tbsp Minced garlic 2 Tbsp Minced shallot 2 Tbsp Minced ginger 1 Serrano chili sliced thin 1 pinch Fennel seed 1 pinch Cumin seed 2 pinches Black onion seed or Nigella seeds (Can be purchased at most Indian Grocery Stores) 6 ounces Chilled and cubed Paneer cheese (1/2 inch cubes) 2 ounces Clarified butter 2 ounces Scallions, sliced evenly 1 Tbsp Kosher salt to taste Cilantro


To Make Paneer Cheese

Start by placing the milk, cream, and goat cheese into a nonstick sauce pan. Place the pan on the stove over medium heat. Next, combine the vinegar and water into a large stainless steel or glass bowl. While the milk mixture is cooking, stir it gently making sure not to rub the bottom of the pan. When the mixture reaches a boil, immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour mixture into the large bowl which contains the vinegar and water. At this point the mixture will curdle as soon as it gets into the bowl. Allow the mixture to cool for about an hour.

Next, lay 2 layers of cheese cloth into a colander. You will need enough cheese cloth to be able to gather up the corners and twist them once the cheese is in the center of the cloth. Put the colander in the sink. Pour the entire cheese mixture into the colander and allow the liquid to drain away. After about 30 minutes most of the liquid will be gone and you will be left with a very soft mass, which is the cheese. Draw up the corners of the cheese cloth and twist it to squeeze out any remaining liquid. Tie up the cheese in the cloth with a twist tie or a piece of string. Put the cheese (wrapped in the cloth) back into the colander. Place the colander over a bowl so that the cheese can continue to fully drain. Place the colander and bowl with the cheese in the refrigerator for 24 hours. After 24 hours the cheese will be ready to cut into cubes.

To Make Clarified Butter or Ghee:

Take 2 pounds of unsalted butter and place in a sauce pan and cook over low to medium heat. While the butter simmers, use a small ladle to skim the foam off the top. This process takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour. What you are trying to achieve is a clear golden oil with no sediments. When you get to the clear stage, strain the butter through a coffee filter and refrigerate the strained oil, discarding all the other matter. This amount will make much more than you will need, but it has a very long shelf life in the refrigerator and can be used for other cooking purposes.

To Finish Naya’sPaneer Cheese Appetizer

1. In a skillet heat the butter to hot. Add the fennel, cumin and black onion seeds and swirl them in the hot clarified butter for a few seconds. 2. Next, add the Paneer Cheese and salt and swirl in pan for about 5 10 seconds 3. Next, add all of the remaining ingredients: garlic, shallot, ginger, Serrano chili, ½ of the scallions and toss. 4. Place the entire pan in at 400 degree oven and roast the cheese for 8 10 minutes. 5. To serve, pour everything on a shallow platter and garnish with remaining scallions and cilantro. Add a bit of tomato for color.

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