Batzos SaganakiDec 20th, 2011 | By Peter Minakis | Category: Appetizer, Bread, Cheese, Featured, Frying, Lemon, Meze, Pantry
One of the cornerstones of Greek cuisine has to be it’s cheeses…varied in taste, texture and many offerings coming from all parts of the country. I brought a cheese from Greece is called Batzos – not Batsos (Greek slang for Police/Cop). Batzos come from northern Greece and more specifically from central to western Macedonia (Naoussa to Kastoria) and northern Thessaly. Batzos gets its name from the Vlach word for the mountain huts in which this cheese used to be made in and it’s also a PDO-protected product (since 1996).
This is a firm cheese, a little spongy and porous, made of sheep’s or goat’s milk and briny with a back-end tang on the palate. It has a colour that ranges from egg-white to yellow. The cheese is in essence a Kefalotyri (salty) that’s shaped like a large head after being strained in cheesecloth then it’s sliced into slabs and place in metal containers with coarse sea salt sprinkled in between each piece and topped with the whey ( or a brine).
Batzos is often enjoyed in the style of “saganaki”, that is to say it’s fried in the two-handled vessel and often flambeed with Tsipouro (local eau de vie) or brandy and finished with a good squeeze of lemon. Fried cheese is enjoyed by most Greeks and those who patronize Greek restaurants order this favourite all the time. You won’t find Batzos here in Toronto but it’s certainly avaialable in Thessaloniki and surrounding regions.
Batzos Saganaki (Μπάτζος Σαγανάκι)
1 piece of Batzo 1/2″ inch thick
1 generous Tbsp. of olive oil
all-purpose flour for dredging
optional for flambe: 1/2 shot glass of Metaxa (brandy) or Ouzo
wedge of lemon
- Pre-heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (a cast-iron pan works very well) to a medium-high heat. Place your slab of cheese under running tap water then dredge in all-purpose flour. Shake off any excess flour.
- Add your olive oil to the skillet. Add a sprinkle of flour into the pan to test if the oil is hot enough. As soon as it sizzles, add your cheese to the skillet and sear for a couple of minutes. Carefully flip the cheese with a spatula and allow to sear for a couple of minutes on the other side.
- Turn off your heat source and carefully carry your cheese saganaki to your table and pour the brandy ( or Ouzo) over the cheese and ignite with a lighter. Move your head back, shout “OPA” and squeeze the wedge of lemon over the cheese.
- Serve immediately with crusty bread, some Ouzo on ice.
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