Roasted stuffed dates with saffron-chili beurre blanc
Appetizers are the most critical part of the meal. It sets the tone for the evening and always has to be outstanding.
This appetizer is just that. A beautiful appetizer and a wonderful pop of flavors. The sweet dates are filled with a spicy creamy paneer and are complimented beautifully with the rich saffron beurre blanc sauce. This elegant and delicious appetizer sets the tone for any formal (or informal) dinner and has always been a hit. I limit the portion size to 2 per head as they are quite filling and irresistible.
I am a huge fan of Mejdool dates. There are by far the best variety of date available out there, and yes, well worth the price. These dates are the perfect blend of sweet, sticky and flavor, a rich caramel sweetness that I find addictive. There is always a box at home, and it is a healthy way to satisfy my sweet tooth. Here is more on these dates.
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For the dates:
16 Medjool dates
1/2 cup paneer, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon chili powder, preferably Kashmiri chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon chaat masala
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt, to taste
For the beurre blanc:
2 tablespoons onions
2 teaspoons garlic
A few tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Salt, to taste
1 cup heavy cream
Pre-heat oven to 375 C.
Slit the dates along their length about half way through, till you hit the seed in the center. Remove the seeds. Set aside.
Mix the paneer, chili powder, cumin powder, chaat masala, cream and salt. You should have a sticky paste like mix. Taste and adjust salt and spices as determined by your palate.
Make 16 portions of the mix. Gently open the dates and stuff with the mix. Set aside till ready to bake. If prepping ahead of time, wrap the plate in cling wrap and store in the fridge.
To make the beurre blanc:
Add the onions, garlic and water to a small blender and purée till very smooth.
Heat a small saucepan with the butter and add the onion purée. Sauté on low heat for 3-4 minutes till the water has evaporated completely and the paste begins to get sautéed in the butter. While the onions are cooking add the chili flakes and saffron. The sauce will begin to bubble with the butter and turn a bright yellow from the saffron.
Add the cream and bring to a very gentle simmer. You do not want this sauce to boil as it will separate. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes on a very gentle simmer till thickened and a beautiful gold color. Take off the heat and add salt. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
Line the filled dates on a foil-lines baking sheet separating them by a bit. Bake for 10-12 minutes till heated through.
Meanwhile, heat the sauce up to a gentle simmer.
Add most of the sauce to a plate and either spread out in concentric circles, or create a splatter pattern with the sauce or add the sauce to the center and brush out creating a brushed pattern, let yourself be creative. Add the warm dates on top and drizzle or splatter the dates with the remaining sauce. Serve at once.