Paneer Masala Mushroom Appetizers

Paneer Masala Mushroom Appetizers Recipe

Paneer masala is pan-fried paneer cheese simmered in a spicy, creamy sauce. It is amazing with plain basmati rice or hot naan. But instead of serving this dish the traditional way, I used it as a filling for mushrooms. The bold flavor of the curry sauce marries beautifully with the earthiness of the mushrooms; they make the most delicious fusion appetizers.

The idea for these cute appetizers was inspired by my aunt, Ma Mười. She told me the first time she tried Indian food years ago at a restaurant, she was served a lot of little metal tins filled with colorful sauces. After a while, she asked the waiter when her main meal was going to arrive. She thought they were condiments and didn't realize that was her entire meal.

These appetizers showcase the wonderful flavors of Indian cuisine for those who are not really familiar with this culture. I've prepared pizzas, "naaninis" and other fusion dishes with Indian toppings in the past. Indian cuisine is boldly flavored, so pairing it with simple and attractive presentation techniques is a low-risk strategy for producing delicious new dishes.

Ingredients

Yields: 8 servings

1 (16-ounce) package paneer cheese (see tips), store-bought
¼ cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoons cumin seeds, slightly toasted
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
4 tablespoons caramelized onions (see tips)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 pound white button mushrooms
1½ teaspoons salt
½ lemon
1 (2-inch) chunk Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon cilantro, for garnish


Directions

Making paneer masala:

Cut the paneer cheese into ½-inch cubes, so they fit into the mushroom caps. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan. Add the cheese cubes and pan-fry until they're golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel, leaving as much oil as possible in the pan.

To the same pan, add the grated ginger, cumin seeds and yogurt, stirring frequently. Pour into a blender, add the caramelized onions and pulse until the sauce is smooth. Add the heavy cream for a smoother flow. Set aside.

Still using the same pan, add the tomato paste, the sauce from the blender, turmeric powder and about 1½ cups of water. Bring to a full boil then lower the heat to medium-high. Cover with a dome-shaped lid to enable the steam to fall back in the saucepan. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add tomato sauce and red chili powder. Season with 1½ teaspoons salt. Add the fried paneer. Lower the heat and cook for another 8-10 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Preparing the mushrooms: Stem the mushrooms, reserving the mushroom "hats". You can store the stem for future use, such as making broth.

Assembly time: 

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Spray a baking pan with oil. Drizzle the mushroom "hats" with a bit of vegetable oil. Toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

Stuff each mushroom with about 2-3 teaspoons of the paneer masala, creating a small mound.

Place the mushrooms onto the baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Open the oven, sprinkle the mushrooms with Pecorino cheese and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro.

Bon appétit!


Tips

You could replace the paneer cheese with cubed tofu for healthier appetizers and omit the Pecorino cheese.

For a meat version, you could use chicken butter masala instead of paneer.

You can make your own paneeror buy it in any Indian store.

Reminder on how to caramelize onions: Heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan. Add 2 thinly sliced onions. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. To save time, I often have already-caramelized onions on hand in the freezer. I suggest making them in advance in large batches and freezing them in small portions in ice cube trays.    

For this appetizer recipe, count 45-50 mushrooms for 1 pound.

For more finger food recipes, check out this link.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on June 10, 2013.


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