In case you’re wondering, the original saganaki was not flambéed. This flaming cheese ritual was started by restaurateurs in Chicago, who were hoping a little bit of showmanship would help increase cheese appetizer sales, which it certainly did. They also made the experience interactive by encouraging customers to yell, “Opa!” as the plate was being ignited. If there’s one thing people love even more that flaming fried cheese, it’s yelling.
I really love kasseri cheese for this, since it holds its shape, crusts up nicely, and melts beautifully. I’ve also done this with a cheese called haloumi, which is tasty, but doesn’t melt at all, and for me that’s the best part. Beside those two, you can also use graviera, kefalograviera, kefalotyri, or even a firm feta cheese. No matter which cheese you use, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!
Ingredients for 2 large portions:
4 ounce slab of kasseri cheese (about 3/8 inch thick), or other cheeses listed above
water and flour as needed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons brandy, room temp
1/2 lemon to squeeze over, or to taste
1 tablespoon freshly chopped Italian parsley
sliced fresh or grilled bread to serve alongside