Chicken gets all over everything and has salmonella. Save yourself a headache and fry up some paneer instead.

McDonald’s India has an extensive vegetarian menu (because India is a vegetarian paradise) and one of the top items is the Paneer McSpicy. This is a great idea for a homemade fried-thing sandwich because you can make paneer in 45 minutes or so and you don’t have to Clorox your kitchen after you handle it. So no, I’m not a scrupulous vegetarian at this point in my life, the McPaneer is just really darned convenient versus all the alternatives.

My kids don’t like spicy or strongly-flavored foods so I went off-script with the batter and sauce. Was not disappointed with the results.

Yield: 4-5 sandwiches

Stage 1: Paneer

  • 1/2 gallon (8 cups) whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
  1. Stir the citric acid into 1 cup cold water and set aside.
  2. In a pot or saucepan, slowly heat the milk on the stovetop to 190-200F. As it nears the target temperature, stir it and scrape the bottom occasionally to avoid scalding.
  3. Turn off the heat and add the citric acid solution while stirring very slowly and gently. The milk should start separating into white curds and watery yellow-green whey within seconds. Keep stirring until it’s as separated as it’s gonna get, about 1 minute. Put a lid on the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place a large colander in the sink (or in a bowl if you want to save the whey). Double up a cheesecloth or muslin towel and place it over the colander. Prepare a medium bowl of cold water nearby.
  5. Pour the separated milk into the cheesecloth’d colander. This will drain out the whey, leaving the curds. Take the four corners of the cheesecloth and twirl them together to form the curds into a ball. Dip the bundle in the cold water a few times to rinse some of the citric acid out. Then tie it by the corners to your faucet (or anywhere it can hang and drip). Let it hang out for 10 minutes.
  6. Untie the bundle and twist the top to force more water out of the curds. Place it in the squarest tupperware you’ve got with the cloth “tail” pointed to the side, place an equivalent tupperware on top, and weigh it all down with a cast iron skillet or whatever you’ve got that’s heavy and will stay in place. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the cheese from the cloth and put it (covered or uncovered) in the fridge.
  7. The paneer will be ready to use after an hour or two. It should be firm and not fall apart.

Stage 2: Sauce

  • 1 cup cherry/grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup or so mayonnaise
  • A splash of white vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • A couple pinches of sugar
  • 1 T or so buttermilk powder, optional

Blend all ingredients with an immersion blender until completely smooth, then put in the fridge until ready to use.

Stage 3: Batter

  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • A pinch of MSG (Accent)
  • Several grinds of black pepper

Whisk ingredients together and add cold water 1/4 cup at a time until a thick batter (not a dough) forms. If you over-water the batter and it gets runny, you can add more flour to thicken it back up.

Stage 4: Assembly

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Hamburger buns, buttered and toasted in a frying pan
  • Paneer, carefully sliced into thin (about 1/2-inch) slabs
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Heat about an inch of vegetable oil on the stovetop to between 300 and 350F. Submerge each paneer slice in batter, then coat well with bread crumbs, then fry for about a minute on each side until golden brown.
  2. Assemble sandwiches: bottom bun, a generous slather of sauce, fried paneer slice(s), lettuce, top bun.
  3. Enjoy.