Kefalotyri & Tomato Saganaki

A few weeks ago, a lovely love from the city joined me for a sleepover and brought a couple of good hunks of kefalotyri cheese and some delectable sea scallops with which we made a super-extravagant sea scallops AND cheese saganaki, like the one front and centre below:

A word about the term saganaki before we continue: many of us know saganaki as that flamboyant flaming cheese dish found in Greek restaurants all over North America, however the term refers to dishes cooked in a sagani, which is a small-ish, two-handled skillet-type-dealio or in the style of such a dish. Much the same way fondue isn’t strictly limited to cheese served in an avocado green pot with a wooden handle over a small flame that never stays lit, though that’s often what first comes to mind.

Google stuff like “shrimp saganaki” or “beans saganaki” or “eggplant saganaki” or “octopus saganaki” and you’ll see what I mean.

This dish combines the fried cheese type of saganaki treatment with a seafood type of saganaki treatment, but without the fishy bits.

Why? Because it makes for a brighter, less heavy dish. Because it makes the dish go further. Because it’s fun to watch friends figure out how to approach this very sharesy dish and then revel in it. Because that’s the way I like it, baby. I don’t wanna live forever. 

Ahem. Sorry. Sometimes the spirit of Lemmy compels me.

The seafood kind I tackle exactly the same way, replacing the cheese with a goodly amount of shrimp, scallops or mussels. Doing both cheese and seafood just requires amping up the sauce ingredients a bit to increase the volume.

Aforementioned lovely love from the city was kind enough to leave me one of the hunks of kefalotyri, giving me a chance to indulge once again and also to make it on the BBQ cos it’s just been way too effin’ hot to cook inside. The results were great, so I’ve included tips for doing it that way, too.

This recipe serves six, but serve it with a side salad or some steamed greens and it makes a nice, romantic main for two.

What you need:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 250-ish grams COLD kefalotyri cheese (it’s important that you start with it cold or will get too melty when frying)
  • 1/4 cup of ouzo
  • 3 medium-sized, ripe tomatoes (use good, ripe, salad or sauce-type tomatoes)
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp chili flakes
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup of fresh parsley and/or basil (I always use both), finely chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon

What you do: 

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the tomatoes, shallot, garlic, chili flakes and nutmeg and set aside.
  2. Heat your saganaki pan or oven-friendly frying pan over medium-high heat. On the grill, you want to hit about 450 degrees. Once HOT, add to it the oil and butter.
  3. Heat these until bubbling, swirling the pan occasionally (use oven mitts!) so’s not to burn the butter, then add the cheese. Using oven mits, occasionally swirl the butter and oil mixture gently around the cheese. Cook until the underside is browned, then gently (remember there’s a good bunch of hot oil and butter in there!) flip the cheese and do the same for the other side.
  4. Once both sides of the cheese are browned, remove the cheese and set aside.
  5. Deglaze the pan with a bit of the ouzo, then stir in the tomato mixture and let cook until the tomatoes dissolve a bunch and the sauce has thickened to desired consistency.
  6. Stir in the remaining ouzo, return the cheese to the pan, top with the fresh herbs, then pop it under the broiler or close the BBQ lid for about 5 minutes until everything gets all toasty and bubbly again. A grill won’t give you the same browning as the oven’s broiler will, but everything will still be melty and delicious.
  7. Remove from the oven/grill, squeeze the lemon juice over the lot of it and serve straight from the pan or on a different vessel with a cheese knife (pie plates are ideal) and lots of toasted pita, baguette or ciabatta slices.




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