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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stuffed Naan (lazy man's version)

So, my family's been Indian my whole life. My mother's been an amazing cook, my whole life. And yet, somehow,  the first time we made this unbelievable concoction was three weeks ago. How is this possible?! I can't emphasize this enough: these things are awesome. In fact, I should warn you to NOT make this recipe. It will only haunt you. Because not only are stuffed naans delicious, they are surprisingly easy to make.

Ok, I'll admit, these aren't REAL naans. Real naan involves actually making a bread dough, which no one in my family really felt like doing. Plus, we had an extra bag of Trader Joe's pizza dough sitting in the fridge, so...

The base ingredient in our version of stuffed naan is paneer, a form of Indian cheese. Now, sometimes, when people hear of a bread stuffed with cheese, they think "Ooh! Gooey, meltey cheese! Awesome!" No. Stop thinking that. Paneer does not melt, nor is it supposed to. It's meant to be crumbly, have texture. Could you add mozzarella or a nice gruyere? Sure. But then you're not eating stuffed naan. Sorry. 

The great thing about this recipe is that it's unbelievably customizable. You can add almost any combination of things. Enjoy sauteed okra, chicken, along with a bit of garlic? Go ahead. How about ground lamb and peas? Why not. Freedom is a beautiful thing.

Our version had a fairly extensive list of ingredients, but I'm pretty sure that's because we just started throwing everything we like in there. There is of course some method to the madness, and the combination of everything we added was...mmmm....let's just say words fail me. Again, with stuffed naan, you don't want to forget about texture. The crumbly goodness of the cheese, paired with the crunch of the cashews and the chew of the raisins really keeps your mouth interested.

Also, don't be afraid of extra stuffing. This can be great in sandwiches, or even on top a pile of greens. 


Now, the one hard part about making stuffed naans is, unsurprisingly, the stuffing part. It's not so bad when you get the hang of if, but they're kinda like pancakes. The first one is always bad. The images above act as a pictorial guide to how to make your naans perfect. I'd refer to them when following the recipe below.

At this point, I was about to eat these things raw. The problem with my family is we enjoy cooking in a very leisurely manner, and halfway through the process we're all dizzy with hunger. Mind you, my sister and I had taken several nibbles of the stuffing at this point to keep up our energy. The seeds on top of ours, by the way, are not sesame. We used kalonji, or Nigella seeds. They are traditionally what you sprinkle on top of Indian breads, but just in case you can't get your hands on some, sesame seeds work just as well.

This is the chicken dish my mother made alongside with our naans. It's a hybrid between Chicken Makhni (Butter Chicken) and Chicken Tikka. As soon as she teaches me how to make it, I promise I'll be passing the knowledge to you guys.

So there you have it. People generally think Indian food is always extremely complicated, but hey, we're pretty lazy people! Shortcuts aren't always a bad thing. And in this case, it's kind of an awesome thing.

Stuffed Naan

*Note: The ingredients you use to stuff your naan can vary incredibly. This is our version, and  it really was phenomenal. Like, sneak down to the kitchen at 2 am and eat the last one cold phenomenal.
*Note II: Any prepared pizza dough works, but I'd recommend Trader Joe's.

1.5 cups paneer, shredded (farmer's cheese and queso blanco work too)
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 small thai green chili
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp ginger
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
32 oz pizza dough
2-3 tbsp sesame seeds
flour, to keep dough from sticking
a bit of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place a cookie sheet inside while you prepare the naans.

Combine the first 11 ingredients, stirring them together.

Place the flour in a small bowl and dip your fingers in, to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Rip off a chunk of dough, a ball with a diameter of about 2".

Roll into a smooth sphere between your palms, then flatten into a disk with your fingers, stretching the dough a bit near the end. Take a large spoonful of the cheese mixture and place in the middle of the circle. Don't be shy with the stuffing, put a good amount in there. Then, carefully fold the edges into the center, enveloping the filling, till you get a thick patty. Carefully press down and flatten so it becomes thinner and thinner, and the filling inside distributes throughout the naan. You want the finished naan to be about the same size as the original circle of dough.

Take the cookie sheet out of the preheated oven and carefully spread a bit of olive oil on the surface. Place the naans on, giving them about an inch of space all around. Rub a bit more olive oil over the top and sprinkle on the sesame seeds.

Bake the naans for about 20 to 25 minutes. We took them out when we couldn't stand waiting any longer, and they were slightly underdone, which is how I like my breads. If you'd like them fully cooked, I'd give it another 5 minutes or so.

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