Frying may not be the first cooking method we think of when it comes to cheese, but the Greek recipe of saganaki does just that. A firm cheese is sliced, dredged in flour, and pan-fried until golden and crispy on the outside with a warm and tender interior. There are several Greek cheeses to use, including the popular graviera and Halloumi.
Saganaki is written as σαγανάκι in Greek and pronounced sah-ghah-NAH-kee. The recipe takes its name from the pan in which it's made: the sagani, a two-handled pan made of many different materials. If you don't have or can't find a sagani, you can use a small paella pan, a small cast-iron skillet, or a non-stick skillet.
Serve saganaki as an appetizer, hors d'oeuvres, or as part of a meal made up of a variety of mezethes or appetizers. This fried cheese goes well with ouzo or wine, olives, vegetable mezethes, tomatoes, and crusty bread.
Gather the ingredients.
Cut cheese into slices or wedges 1/2-inch thick by 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide. Each slice must be thick enough that it doesn't melt during cooking.
Moisten each slice with cold water and dredge it in the flour. Shake off any excess flour.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a sagani or small heavy-bottomed frying pan.
Place a cheese slice in the hot oil and sear until it's golden brown.
Flip slice of cheese to brown the other side. Repeat with remaining slices of cheese.
Serve hot with lemons for squeezing, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley, if desired.
- Use a firm cheese that will hold up to the heat and won't melt in the pan. Authentic Greek recipes usually use graviera, kefalotyri, or kefalograviera. Halloumi is traditionally used in Cyprus, while chefs on the island of Chios prefer mastello. You can also use pecorino romano in a pinch.
- The key to success with this dish is to get the oil as hot as possible before cooking the cheese, but don't let it begin to smoke.
- To create more of a batter coating, you can dip the floured cheese into a beaten egg before frying.
- Add some freshly ground black pepper to the flour before dredging the cheese.
- For a flaming version of saganaki, transfer the finished cheese to a clean sagani or skillet. Pour a shot of ouzo over it and light it with a match, then douse the flames with the lemon juice. This isn't a Greek tradition, but it can be a showstopper.