Saganaki Is the Greatest Melted Cheese Indulgence
If you're a cheese lover, I'm going to introduce you to the ultimate, beyond optimum, pan-fried Greek cheese delicacy that will only take you a few minutes to prepare. It's called Saganaki, the flaming cheese meze, or appetizer, that will become a holiday favorite.
It sounds more like Japanese, but Saganaki is a Greek-American specialty invented by the owner of the Parthenon Restaurant in Chicago's Greektown in the late 1960s. I've come to love its thin, crispy, golden crust on the outside and soft, gooey interior.
For this recipe, I'm going to keep it very simple and quick, starting with the right kind of cheese to make your Saganaki. You can choose from very good cheese, like Kasseri, sold in four-ounce packages at Market Basket, to the better quality cheeses like imported Graviera, Kefalograviera, Kefalotyri – or the finest, Cypriot Halloumi or Mastello from the island of Chios.
Greek specialty markets in Providence, Yoleni's, and Athena International Foods in Brockton can assist you if you'd like the higher-quality cheeses. If you can't find the Greek cheese, the best substitutes are Asiago, Pecorino Romano, Colby or Monterey Jack.
To prepare your Saganaki, you only need to follow three very easy steps. First, take a 4x4 square slice of cheese about two-thirds of an inch thick, and cover the surface of the cheese with ice-water in a bowl for a minute.
Then, dredge the cheese in flour, shaking off any excess, and pan fry in preferably a cast iron skillet, or a sauté pan, with a tablespoon of olive oil, over medium-high heat.
In about two minutes, when the cheese begins to ooze and it gets golden brown, flip it over so it can become golden on both sides. Squeeze a lemon wedge on top and serve it right away, as it will become hard when it gets cold.
Our daughters Andrea and Athena like to flambé Saganaki at the Greek Festival using just a bit of Greek brandy, Ouzo, or any high-proof spirit, and ignite it with a lighter. It looks so impressive when served with an exclaim of "Opa!" to celebrate the scrumptious moment.