Feta is one of the many indigenous cheeses used in saganaka.
Feta saganaki is a Greek appetizer made from feta cheese sealed in a skillet. It is rumored to have its origins in Turkey and its name is a tribute to the single-portion frying pan in which it is fried, called sagani. Traditional saganaki is eaten straight from this skillet. In fact, all dishes prepared in saganis are called “saganaki”. Feta saganaki is enjoyed with a hint of fresh lemon and the aniseed-flavored Greek liqueur ouzo.
Feta is one of many different indigenous cheeses used in saganaki. Hard cheeses work best for saganaki because they retain their shape when subjected to the intense heat needed to make this dish. Kesseri, kefalograviera and kefalotyri are some of the hard Greek cheeses found in various saganaki recipes. Dipped in a batter of egg, flour and oil, or simply butter, feta saganaki is placed in a sagani skillet and fried until the feta cheese is bubbly and the outer layer is crispy. An alternative to pan-frying is to coat the feta cheese with butter and grill it in the oven.
In Greek restaurants in North America, it is common to dip feta cheese in brandy, flambé and serve it hot at the table with shouts of “Oops”, an expression of celebration and joy in Greek. This creates a festive and extravagant presentation of this favorite Greek dish. Another modern way of serving saganaki feta is in a meze setting, where a large sample of appetizer dishes is served in four- to five-course meals. A sprinkle of sesame seeds or oregano on top of feta saganaki can be added as a finishing touch.
Traditional feta saganaki is prepared by slicing firm feta cheese into 7.6 by 5 cm squares that are 0.5 to one inch (1.2 to 2.5 cm) thick and then rinsed to relieve excess salt. . Cutting feta cheese into the right size pieces is important because if they are too thick, the cheese will not melt completely, and if they are too thin, they will crumble in the cooking process. The feta cheese is then coated with flour on all sides and placed in the sagani pan with olive oil and grilled on each side for about two to two and a half minutes. It is served in the sagani skillet, with slices of fresh lemon, thick slices of tomato and sagani bread or other bread.