A Recipe for Garides Saganaki
A few months ago when it was L'il Burnt Toast's birthday we took a culinary tour at home in memory of a week we had in Greece together on the islands of Santorini and Naxos a few years back. I was there for 5 weeks in total but we were able to spend a part of our sojourn together. In honour of her birthday, and her love of Greek cuisine, I made all of her favourite dishes such as Spanakopita and Aglaia Kremezi's Greek Lemon and Oregano Potatoes. This is all well and good and would cure even the seasoned traveller of their cravings for authentic Greek cuisine, but, I wanted to add a new dish to the mix. I had been tempted by the Garides Saganaki on Peter's site Kalofagas - Greek Food and Beyond. He heightens the flavour of this classic dish with sauteed mushrooms and just the right amount of hot peppers. He also adds just a splash of that classic Greek drink ouzo for good measure.
On Christmas Eve I found myself preparing dinner for a much larger group who have deep connections to the Portuguese community. (This is where that culinary vacation I want to take in the Douro Valley in port country in Portugal would have come in handy!!). Since I presently am not familiar with Portuguese cuisine I decided to stick with something I know so added "Garides" or Shrimp Saganaki to the menu to compliment the wild Sockeye salmon and prime rib roast already on the menu. Similar to Greek cuisine Portuguese cuisine highlights many superb seafood dishes. Peters recipe makes an excellent point of reference to create your own version with what you have available to you this time of the year. Needless to say it will have you longing for the sunny beaches and azure blue of the Agean Sea.
Saganaki dishes take their name from the pan in which they are cooked. One of our favourite meze dishes takes it's name Saganaki from the pan and not from the ingredients used for it's delicious fried cheese and lemon. I didn't have a saganaki pan to serve 10 so my paella pan made an excellent substitute to make this shrimp saganaki dish. If you can't find one, use a skillet or other pan that is safe for both your stovetop and oven, to hold your shrimp snugly. The other challenge with this recipe this time of the year is the absence of garden ripe tomatoes that would normally be grated into the dish. Canned tomatoes make an excellent substitute this time of year since they are canned at their peak of freshness. A previous trip to our local Italian grocers stocked my cupboards with cans of small peeled Italian tomatoes. This definitely became an international dish!
This saganaki calls for jumbo shrimp (or larger) but works well with any size from shrimp to prawns. The beauty of this dish is that it can be doubled or tripled to accomodate any number of guests. I hope to make this a Christmas Eve tradition from now on!!!! The photo is kind of deceptive since my paella pan is huge and the shrimp were actually 2 - 3 inches in length. We were too busy enjoying our meal for me to take more than one shot.
I have a major computer virus so this post is going up with no spell check, no frills and no conversions. It has taken all day to get this far with plenty of hair loss:D I did promise a friend this recipe so here we go...
10 jumbo (or colossal) raw shrimp (1 pound of shrimp)
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 medium to medium-large onion, finely chopped or grated
1 pound of ripe tomatoes, grated (alternatively 1 can 398 mL/14 oz)small, peeled canned tomatoes, crushed)
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 shot glass of ouzo or vodka (1 ounce)
1/3 pound (5 1/3 to 5 1/2 ounces) of feta cheese, crumbled
1/8 pound (2 ounces) of kefalotyri cheese or mozzarella, grated
1-2 rounded tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley
If using fresh shrimp, remove the shell from the body only, leaving the head and tail intact. Devein by running a sharp knife down the back of the shrimp to remove the vein. (If using frozen shrimp, defrost completely, shell, and devein).
In a skillet, sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, salt, and pepper and cook over low heat until the sauce thickens. Add vodka or ouzo and stir in.
In saganaki pan spread tomato/ vodka sauce in a thin layer. Line pan with uncooked shrimp. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese. Sprinkle the grated kefalotyri or mozzarella over the top and bake under the broiler until the cheese forms a crust on top, about 15 minutes. The size of the shrimp used with be the deciding factor on the length of cooking time.
Garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot.
Serving alternative: If you have small saganaki dishes on hand (or shallow ramekins, paella pans, or au gratin dishes), divide the shrimp and sauce into two dishes to create individual servings.
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