I’m a frequenter of Indian buffets, it’s true. At one point, when I worked in midtown in Memphis, I hit the local favorite two to three times a week. I even ran into my [at the time] future father-in-law hamming it up with a few of his fellow doctors there, shortly after we’d first met. I was wearing yoga pants.
Grey yoga pants.
Like, light grey yoga pants that I would otherwise not wear “out”–but to a two-person office and the otherwise anonymous Indian buffet, sure. Just a wee bit embarrassing, but he didn’t dramatically stop the wedding when our judge asked if anyone could think of any reasons why we should not be wed. So I guess he got over it.
Slash.. never noticed. Men.. am I right?! I mean, am I right?!
The point is.. I’m a frequenter of Indian buffets, and I am a hoarder of paneer. Let’s be real, at buffets, they totally skimp the saag paneer on the paneer, leaving it more of a “palak.”, no other ingredients deserving title status. So I dive like a kid fishing for rubber duckies at a carnival, sifting through the creamy greens, pinching out the creamy cubes and placing them daintily on my plate. The whole process might be a little stealthier than it sounds, but the point is.. I am about as about the paneer as Ms. Megan Trainor is about that bass.
I figured homemade would be even better and, considering that I couldn’t find any even at our Whole Foods, I gave it a whirl. Best. decision. of. my. life.
OK, that, too, might just be hyperbole, but the homemade paneer blew the “other” paneer totally out of the water! It’s painfully creamy and rich, dense and indulgent, flavorful yet simple. There’s only about four steps to the whole process and one of those steps is “stir lemon juice into milk”. Pretty complicated stuff, people! If you ever make vegetarian Indian dishes at home, you simply owe it to yourself to try this recipe. So worth it.
I might actually even be less of a paneer-hoarder at the buffets now, knowing what awaits me at home. Indian buffets, you’ve officially become my side piece.
- 1/2 gallon whole milk , not UHT pasteurized (organic is usually UHT so go for all-natural)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or vinegar
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
In a large saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat. Bring the milk just barely to a simmer--about 200ºF, right under the boil. Use a kitchen thermometer with a probe and alarm to make this super easy. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom to make sure it doesn't scald. The milk will look steamy and foamy when ready.
Remove the milk fro mthe heat and stir in the lemon juice. The mixture will likely curdle immediately but if it doesn't, that's OK. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the mixture should be separated into curds and whey--the whey is the yellowy watery liquid. If the mixture has not yet separated, add another tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
Set a colander lined with cheesecloth over a mixing bowl or use a nut bag. Scoop the curds into the colander or nut bags and let the whey drain into the bowl underneath. Keep the whey for any of its awesome uses, including lactofermentation!
Once most of the whey has drained, squeeze the curds in the cheesecloth or nut bag to help remove any excess whey. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir gently, and add another 1/4 teaspoon is desired.
Place the curds--still in the cheesecloth or nut bag--on a large dinner plate and shape them into a rough square. Fold the cheesecloth around the curds to make a little rectangular package, then set a second place on top of the curds and weigh down with a weight, such as a large can of tomatoes or the bottom of a Vitamix (OK, so I don't actually recommend using the bottom of your Vitamix, but you get the idea.. use what you've got.. I just happen to usually have the bottom of a Vitamix). Let curds press for 15 minutes to an hour. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to two days.