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Fresh paneer and home baked crackers, plus beer review


Kzoppistan

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Tonight I tried my hand at two different things. Having spent most of my adult life in the clutches of various women, I never learned to cook anything harder than mac n cheese.

This all changed last year when I moved from a part-time dishwashing gig to working in the kitchen, where I learned the fryer and some eggs and such on the flattop. Since then, I've had a short stint in a bakery and another restaurant as both prep and flattop cook.

After some grocery shopping today and a go at a large pot of vegetable and sausage soup, I felt ready to try something different.

Paneer is the Indian name for a common staple in many world diets that comes with many variations. It is technically a type of cheese. The Spanish call it queso blanco. You may be more familiar with the term curds, from curds and whey.

It is remarkably easy and anybody can make it in as short as 30 minutes, though the more solid type takes about 2 hours.

The gist is that you use an acid or base to separate the protein solids from the rest of the fluid. Very similar to the action of making soap.

A brief note on why I chose this food to make, over the last few years I have developed an unfortunate case of lactose intolerance (the inability to process dairy with out sheet rising reactions accompanied by cramps and, for some, the runs). This is due, I suspect, to the slight influence of native American blood, as most caucasians do not have this problem (you/we are actually in the minority on this, as most other people in the world lose their ability to digest much lactose after their youth). As a lover of cereal and other dairy, this pissed me off considerably. Fortunately, cheeses only contain a small fraction of lactose.

So to get to the quick of it:

1 quart of milk. (I used whole milk because I like fat)

3-4 tablespoons of an acid. Some use actual citric acid, some recipes call for lemon, I only had vinegar, which worked just fine, though I used 5 tablespoons.

And that's it.

You heat the milk just before it boils, add the acid, stirring after each dose, and in it will separate into clumps before your very eyes, leaving behind a greenish thin fluid called whey. I saved they whey to use in bread making.

Remove the clumps and place them in a bowl or directly into your cheesecloth.

The next step calls for a cheesecloth. I had none, but use an old pillowcase. Basically, you squeeze as much of the watery whey out of the curd as you can. Tie a knot in cloth and set a heavy object on it for about 2 hours and presto, you have paneer. I only did it for about an hour which resulted in a slightly softer cheese.

After I got tired of waiting, I shaped the paneer into a block and cut it into about 8 1 1/2 inch pieces. I sprinkled some seasoning and salt on them. I was going to fry them, but decided to do it next time.

The texture was a bit like tofu, firm and easy to shape. The taste before the seasoning was fresh and mild. As most recipes I've seen call for citric acid or lemon juice, I was worried that the vinegar would impact the end product adversely, but that was not the case. It had a very mild tang, almost imperceptible, and much less than other hard cheeses I've had. Very tasty.

While the paneer was being pressed, I made crackers.

I used this recipe:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-rodale/how-to-make-crackers-its_b_816290.html

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I just used all purpose flour)

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup warm water

1/3 cup olive oil (plus more for the pan)

Directions:

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Put the flour, salt, warm water, and olive oil in a bowl, and stir until all the flour is absorbed (less than a minute). It kind of feels more like dough than batter.

3. Take a baking tray and slather it with more olive oil.

4. Put the dough on the tray and smooth it out to cover the whole bottom.

5. Take a knife and cut the dough into squares, rectangles...whatever!

6. Sprinkle the top with a bit more salt

7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden. The crackers will harden up more after they cool.

They come out more like very thin pizza crust rather than traditional crackers. I advise using a rolling pin to get it as thin as you can. I didn't have one, just using my hands, and some of the thicker pieces were a touch doughy.

I put the paneer on the crackers and enjoyed.

While having this snack, I imbibed on some Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse. A nice wheat beer.

I drank it out of the bottle, cause I'm a bum, and also don't own a drinking glass. It was a cloudy orange-yellow color.

The taste and smell was yeasty with a touch of citrus and... maybe cloves. A bit dry to the finish.

The mouth-feel was light with an abundance of almost champagne-esque fizz.

Overall a nice beer, not a highbrow type, by any means, but it had good drinkability and medium refined flavor for the cost. Plus, it has a picture of a smiling monk, rubbing his belly, and drinking a mug of beer. What's not to like about that? I'll definitely get this one again.

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Come for the madness, stay for the head-sweat-infused cheese. I shall attempt this at some point; I will fail and end up with a pillowcase filled with mushy dairy products, but that's really not such a bad fallback.

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Actually, making paneer is rather easy. There is a very simple way of making "bitings" out of it to go with your favourite libation.

Just have some harder paneer, by keeping the weight on the cheese cloth for two hours, cut the block into one inch by quarter inch cuboids, heat up a pan with some oil in it. Pan sear the paneer and later sprinkle some salt and red chilli powder on them [not too much]. Munch on them.

Goes very well with all beer and also awesome with scotch.

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(you/we are actually in the minority on this, as most other people in the world lose their ability to digest much lactose after their youth).

Lactose tolerance is why the races must not be allowed to mingle and weaken our blood.

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You should team up with my old Buddy DeafCat and do a BBQing for Bums thread.
I must concur this is far better than burnt gator on a stick;)

I would do this (fried paneer in dry rub and bbq gator on rice :awesome: ) , but only if HalfEmpty provided commentary.

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