Every Greek restaurant from Athens to Chicago has a version of fried, flaming cheese—the ubiquitous saganaki. But many people mistakenly believe that saganaki refers to the kind of cheese used in the dish. It doesn’t. Saganaki is actually the name of the heavy pan in which the cheese is cooked. Which cheese then? More confusion. Greek chefs make saganaki with lots of different kinds—the main criterion being that they’re firm enough to stay intact after meltdown. Kefalotyri, Kasseri, and the Cypriot cheese Haloumi are often recommended. . .but I recently found a better choice out there. It’s Formaela, available at Titan Foods, in Astoria, Queens. In a recent test, it had the sexiest melt, becoming almost runny, but still held together perfectly. It had the softest texture in the mouth; it developed the crunchiest exterior, with a gorgeous golden-brown color, and the best cheesy cheese-gratin kind of flavor. It also had just enough salt to satisfy, you could eat tons of it, and it was the best one with ouzo.
Cut a slice of cheese (see choices above) approximately 1/2″ to 3/4″ in thickness. The cheese slice goes into a few tablespoons of hot olive oil in a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat; some chefs put it in just as is, I like to coat it with Wondra to give it a delicately crisp exterior.
When the cheese has become golden-brown on the outside and melty within (about a minute per side) remove onto a paper towel to blot off excess grease. Then, after you spill the excess grease out of the pan, place the cheese back in over medium-high heat—followed immediately by a few tablespoons of ouzo.
Tip the pan so that it ignites and, after the ouzo burns out and disappears (about 20 seconds), the saganaki is ready to be plated. Serve with a lemon slice and. . .ouzo, of course.