Indian Toast Stuffed with Curry and Paneer

Curry-stuffed Savory Toast

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So, uh, this happened.  I have no idea where the idea came from, except that I've been obsessing over French toast variants.  Again.

[pre-ramble] There are lots of different kinds of "French" toast, see.  It's an entire family of things that are dipped in some sort of custard and fried in butter or oil – at least if you take the varieties aound the world, and how people classify their dishes. (Especially, if you want to find a regional variant, include "French" along with "toast").  If you look at it this way, even the venerable Monte Cristo sammich is more or less in the same family.  Same with the Italian "Mozzarella in Carozza" (see my version here).

I'll touch on this a bit more after the jump, but to tempt you to read futher this is where we're going today:  savory Indian toast stuffed with a tomato-chicken curry and home-made paneer.

Indian Toast Stuffed with Curry and Paneer

Now, the purists out there would be happy to know that what's considered "French Toast" in the US, and a bunch of other countries is almost assuredly closest to the original.  The first known reference to a similar recipe can be found in Appius' "Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome", first published somewhere around year three.  (Note: the text in brackets are editorial notes that I can't verify)

Break [slice] fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk [and beaten eggs], fry in oil. Cover with honey and serve
Source: Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29728/29728-h/29728-h.htm #296,"Another Sweet Dish"

And now that we've gotten that out of the way, it's time to settle down and actually start doing something about dinner.  This one is particularly a "weekend meal" since there's a bunch of things and a bunch of steps that just take time.  Thankfully a lot of it is just doing things and wandering off for a bit, but it's probably three hours all told start-to-finish.

That said, the individual parts can be made into a meal by themselves (in fact, I made extra curry and we're having that for dinner tonight) and I'll break them out into separate recipes later so you don't have to deal with the ramble.  Thankfully the components are pretty straight-forward and pretty much straight out of the Indian playbook.

This serves up to about eight, depending on sides and how much bread you have.

So, to start this journey, we need to make cheese (*note: you can skip the cheese for time, but it's awfully nice).  Paneer is a type of "cottage cheese" – as in, one made at home – and is not unlike the cottage cheese you buy in the store, or a Ricotta.  Milk (base) and an acid (lemon juice) curdle and you drain that and press it and cheese happens.

It rolls down like this:

Paneer – 

In a large (3-4 quart) saucepan, heat up a half-gallon of milk to somewhere between 185-200F.  I would recommend using a candy thermometer, since if you let it boil you've gone to far and will likely have to start over.

Once the milk is up to temperature, turn off the heat and slowly stir in about 1/4c of lemon juice and a pinch or two of salt (maybe 1/4-1/2 teaspoons).  Stirring is a particular thing, as you want to mix smoothly without getting to violent (it'll break up the clumps).  Stir in one direction slowly, and occasionally back up a bit to make sure the lemon juice is good and mixed in.

Cover that up and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  You can check it now and then and poke it with a spoon, but don't mess with it too much.  Let it do it's work.  Once the time is up, assess the damage.  You should basically have something that looks like cottage cheese (curds) floating in a sea of slightly off-color water (whey).  This is where a judgement call comes in.  If the liquid seems too milky, turn heat back on low and add a bit more lemon juice.and stir that in, being careful to not break up the clumps.  let that sit a bit longer – five minutes maybe.

Paneer curds in the colander

Paneer curds in the colander

Meanwhile put a colander in the sink and line with cheesecloth.  Cheesecloth is generally folded in half, so unfold that and lay down, making several layers.  Pour the contents of the saucepan into the colandar and let it drain for ten minutes or so.  You'll know when it's ready because it won't be too drippy.  Take that and rinse it under some cold water for 30 seconds (tops) to get some of the lemon flavor out – you don't want that too strong. This also stops the cooking process and gets you ready for the next step.

This is the part where I burn myself, no matter what kind of cheese I'm making.  Don't worry though, they're only 1st degree burns, so they won't even make a mark.

Take the cheesecloth and twist it up tight, working out as much liquid as you can.  Dump that out on a cutting board and work it with your hands for a minute or three.  This firms up the curds and makes for a more stable cheese.  Every so often run your hands under cold water because ow.  Then, move the contents to a plate, cover it with another plate, and rest a heavy object on it – a 28oz can of tomatoes will work nicely.  Let that sit for 15-30 minutes, on the longer side IMO.

Remove the top plate, and hopefully you'll have a round of warm, but stable cheese.  I didn't this time, but thankfully it doesn't matter for this dish.  Cover with cling wrap and put it in the fridge until you need it. I'd figure on being at this point to be at least an hour minutes before.

Now, you can say you've made cheese!  Blessed are the cheesemakers!

Next up comes the curry.  You can start this while the cheese is chillin' but for cooking purposes you don't want to start putting things into the pan until at least 30 minutes before the cheese is ready.  I prepped all the stuff while I was on a roll though, so I could relax for a few minutes.  [note: this is going to give you enough curry for leftovers.  I couldn't think of a way to pare it down enough]

Since there's a lot of things going on tonight, I'll break out the prep work (your mise en place if you like hoity-toity terms).  It'll save a lot of heartache later:

  • In a large-ish bowl, gish up a 20-oz can of whole tomatoes. Usually I'd say puree or diced is okay, but it really, realy affects the texture in a significant way this time.  
  • Dice (small-ish) two medium to large onions.  Save about 1/2 an onion for later.
  • Cube (on the small side) one to 1-1/2 pounds of chicken.  Thighs would be best, but whatever you have on hand will work.
  • Dice up some peppers.  I used two Anaheims for reference, but adjust to your preferred heat level.  You'll want about half a cup.  Since one of my kids has a problem with spicy, I also removed the ribs from the peppers.
  • roughly 3tbsp minced garlic, though the pre-minced stuff is okay.

Once it's go-time:

Heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil – vegetable, canola, etc in a large skillet.  Add in your onions (don't for get to save some), about three tablespoons of minced garlic, your peppers, and about 1.5 tablespoons of pepper.  Let that sweat for five minutes or so, moving the veg around consistantly until the onions just start to soften.

tomato-chicken curry

Tomato-Chicken Curry, busy making your kitchen smell awesome

Add in three tablespoons of tomato paste and 2-1/2 tablespoons of curry powder (I highly recommend Sun Brand) and heat that through.  It'll be sticky as heck but you'll want to thicken everything up, without really cooking the paste.

Then, add in your chicken.  It'll really be a thick mess at this point, but it's worth it.  Cook that all for about five minutes, stirring regularly.  

Now, add in your gished tomatoes, along with 1/2tsp coriander and 1/2 tsp cumin.  These go a long way, so don't get too crazy.  It's also a good time to adjust your curry powder and pepper to taste.

Let simmer for 20 minutes, or at least until the chicken is cooked though (this is important!) and then reduce the heat until it's just kept warm.  Now you've made a pretty darn tasty tomato-chicken curry, and you'll have leftovers for tomorrow 🙂

 

Finally, it's time to bring it all together. Savory toast and the assemblage – 

Cut up a loaf or two of bread.  I didn't have any stale bread, so I used an Italian pugilese (it has a really sturdy crust) into 3/8" to 1/2" slices.  Keep in mind you'll need two slices per sandwich.  Then, find the onions you saved earlier, and also dice up a green pepper.  You'll want to re-dice the onions, and dice up the peppers smaller than for the curry, so they'll fit in the crannies in the bread better.  Then, in a bowl, beat six eggs, then fold in the onions and the green pepper, along with 1-1/2tsp pepper and and 2tsp curry powder.  Also, fold in 1/4 to 1/2 cups flour to thicken it. I'd go on the heavy side.

Heat up yet another large pan (I used my iron skillet for this) and melt two tablespoons of butter in it.  

Take a piece of bread and dip it in the batter, one side only.  It's pretty messy, but you'll want to scoop up some of the veggies with your hand and work it into all the nooks and crannies of the bread.  Start that in the pan (battered side down of course), top that with a generous bit of curry and some of that paneer, then repeat the dipping process with another slice of bread and top the sandwich.  When the bottom side is done, flip and cook the other side.  Repeat as neccessary for everyone. Make sure you have more than enough bread.

Serve with a bit of chutney.  The mango chutney I got was quite nice, but your favorite savory should also work.

 

Did you follow all that?  I hope so.  It's a lot of stuff, but it's worth it.  The kids ate more than I could, for a change.  Anyway, it's shopping list time, and I'm going to break it up into chunks to make things (hopefully) easier.  I'm also skipping a lot of spices quantities for simplicity's sake

Paneer:

  • 1/2 gallons whole milk.
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • a pinch of salt
  • candy thermometer
  • cheese cloth

Tomato-chicken curry (with leftovers):

  • 1-1/2 pounds chicken
  • 28 to 35-oz can whole tomatoes (I recommend Cento Italian not "Italian-style")
  • Curry powder (Sun Brand is my favorite)
  • Two medium onions, some reserved for toast.
  • Two Anaheim chiles (or to your heat preference)
  • minced garlic
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • a bit of cooking oil.

Savory "French" toast:

  • 1-2 loaves (depending on the crowd) "rustic" bread.  I've been having a lot of success with pugilese lately.  Can be stale or not.
  • Green pepper
  • roughly 1 cup onions (reserved from the curry)
  • 6 eggs
  • flour
  • curry powder
  • pepper

Extras:  Chutney for dipping. Mango, etc.  Nothing sweet.

Alsø wik: I didn't include nutritional info because this one is definitely a night off the diet.  I'll add that in when I write up the individual parts.