Just when you think you've reach impressive levels of D.I.Y., someone outdoes you. I picked up some samosas at our local Indian joint the other night, and then zipped home to make my very own saag paneer. But when I began to read the various recipes online (they differ tremendously), I learned that more enterprising cooks can take it the next level and make their own paneer (by boiling the hell out of some whole milk) or their own ghee (by doing more or less the same with butter). I bought my package of trademark soft Indian cheese at Whole Foods, along with a jar of ghee. Maybe next time I'll go milk a cow, make my own dairy products, and whip up a batch of samosas to boot. Yeah, right.
Note: This is not a light dish. There's butter, there's cream, there's cheese, and there's yogurt. It's basically cow worship, slightly adulterated with spinach.
Boil a large pot of water. When it comes to a rolling boil, add:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh spinach
After 3 minutes, the spinach will be bright green. Drain it, and squeeze out a much water as possible before setting aside.
In a very large skillet over medium-high heat, melt:
6 Tablespoons ghee (or cooking oil)
Cube and add to the pan, quickly browning on all sides:
1 package of paneer (use as much or as little as appeals to you in balance with your now shrunken pile of spinach--the paneer isn't my favorite part, so I skimp on it)
Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels.
Reduce the heat to medium low and add:
1 large onion, roughly chopped
Cook the onion until soft, then turn the heat to high and add:
4 cloves garlic, well-crushed with the side of large knife
1 inch fresh ginger, finely minced or microplaned
2 small Thai peppers, minced
2 Tablespoons garam masala
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt (I doubled that, but I like salty Indian food)
Stir continuously, and when spices become aromatic (2-3 minutes), lower the heat, dump the spinach into the pan, and stir in:
3 heaping Tablespoons yogurt (full fat is best)
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
Fold in the paneer, grind on a large amount of black pepper, and serve with your own blistered, aching hands.