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Over time I've been sorely tempted by pictures of Saganaki, but I had never had it. Finally, the desire overcame me and I knew it was time to end the drought and make some.

It's easy, right? Take some firm Greek cheese, dip it in water and then into flour. Pan fry that in some oil. That's it. Right?

But since I've been travelling a lot lately, I had a long time to research the many of the various options on the web before I had the opportunity to make my first attempt.

Wow. They're all over the place. It's very interesting to me how something so simple could take on so many variations. Some are expected forms of variation (dip in egg instead of water, season the flour, butter instead of - or in addition to - olive oil, etc.) Some are just contradictory (dip in warm water or cold?) The whole flaming thing appears to be a North American deal (just as, I suspect, shouting "Opa!" is). Emeril marinates his cheese in brandy. But there are other stranger variations like broiling the cheese (in one case just brushed with butter and no flour?!).

Then there's the cheese choice. I think in most cases this probably comes down a matter of availability. But are Greek cheeses necessarily the best ones? There are a lot of cheeses in the world, man.

Then there's the matter of shape. There's some latitude for preference, I suppose, but then there's the matter of thermodynamics.

All that being said, my first attempt was a tasty, but ignominious, fail. Too much oil, too much obsessing over not burning the oil (temp too low), as well as rather dainty wedges lead to a one sided saganaki with a nice crust on one side, but a melted mess on the other. I think I've got enough Kasseri (what was available) left to right the ship through some more attempts. Luckily, my wife was sufficiently turned off by the taste of the room temp Kasseri to have no further interest in what I was doing at the time (but I think she'll be hooked when I get it right).

So what are the best saganaki variations and practices? And also, how would you complete a plate with saganaki (e.g. a nice heirloom tomato wedge)?

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You can use Romano, too. The key is a firm cheese that will melt without sprawling too quickly. And the shape needs to be thin enough to get warm all the way through but a large enough piece to make a good serving or two. Rounds are OK for a small serving for one person, but a rectangle allows the piece to be narrow enough to get warm in the middle, again. The key is very hot oil -- you're searing and browning the outside, not cooking the cheese.

Sides? Good olives are always appropriate. A serving of a tomato/cucumber/pepper salad dressed with oil and lemon, garlic and lots of black pepper. Something with some texture and some acid. And some good bread. And ouzo!

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Flaming Saganaki originated at the Parthenon restaurant in Chicago in the early 1970's.

it's still served there.

As you found out in can be problematic to make.

Over the years I have found out what works for me.

First, no wedges as the geometry makes for uneven melting. You need a flat rectangular piece cut about 1/2" thick, dipped in water and floured put into a pan with melted butter and then heated until you see signs of melting, I then put into my Viking under the broiler(very hot) , pull out, flame with brandy (be careful!) and then lemon, serve immediately.

I only use Kasseri but anything similar would work, it's really the shape of the cheese that matters and it should be a rectangle.-Dick

Edited by budrichard (log)
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