Easy Saganaki: Shrimp Saganaki with Feta Cheese

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I've been exploring my Greek side of the ethnicity tree lately, and came across this fantastic classic Greek dish called Garides Saganaki. Saganaki comes from the name of the pan -- a small, iron skillet type pan with two handles-- that is used for various dishes all under the umbrella of "saganaki." This particular dish originated around the sea, where fisherman brought in the fresh garides and threw them in their saganaki with the trifecta of greek cooking: tomatoes, feta, and ouzo. It's a wonderfully flavorful dish, simple and complex at the same time, and extremely satisfying.  

The traditional requires heads on/shell on shrimp, simmered whole in a tomato-based sauce flavored with ouzo, spices, and chili flakes and is usually served with lightly melted feta cheese on top. I adapted the classic recipe to suit the demands of week night and came up with this much easier to prepare (and eat!) version that hits the requisite notes. Oregano and fresh mint add freshness and depth, while chili flakes add a gorgeous heat to the earthy tomato sauce. To top it? Creamy but still substantial feta cheese -- won't break down against the chunkier sauce but still offer a creamy and salty bite to compliment the sweet, perfectly cooked shrimp.

Admittedly, it won't be as flavorful as simmering the shrimp in the shell; the shell adds immense flavor to any sauce or broth it's cooking in. But, my recipe works for a quick meal to enjoy on a busy week night and certainly won't disappoint!

Shrimp Saganaki
1 lb large raw shrimp -- deveined and shells removed
1/2 cup white onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16 ounce) can crushed tomatoes in sauce (recommend: san marzano)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp oregano (dried or fresh)
1 tsp red chili flakes (less for less spicy)
1 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, patted dry and cut into small cubes (or crumbled by hand)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large cast-iron pan. Add the onion and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook on medium-low heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the tomatoes and stock and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add the oregano and chili flakes and stir to combine. Let simmer 10 minutes for flavors to build.

Preheat your broiler to high.

Next, add the shrimp in one even layer. I like making a mosaic type pattern because it presents beautifully:

Neslte the shrimp in and around the chunky sauce and cook on medium heat about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top and place the pan under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes, depending on the strenght of your broiler. When the shrimp is bright orange and the cheese is on the verge of melting, it's ready.

Carefully pull the pan out of the broiler and top with the mint. Serve piping hot with some cooked white rice, pilaf, or crusty bread. Enjoy!

Kid Tip:
Making this for kids? Add the chili flakes to half of the shrimp on one side, leaving one spicy side for the adults and one mild one for the kids!

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