Garides Saganaki is a quick, delicious, and deceptively simple Greek appetizer or tapas course prepared on the stove top in a skillet. Shrimp are cooked in an herbaceous, anise flavored (thanks to the addition of Ouzo) tomato sauce. A block of feta cheese is placed right on top so it gets soft and melted, adding a satisfying salty-fatty note. It’s really good and I recommend strongly that you try it.
Garides Saganaki: To Translate or Not to Translate?
The Greeks invented democracy. And the Spanish invented tapas. But the Greeks make food that looks pretty tapas-like to me. Greece’s famous Shrimp in a tiny skillet is such a dish. The tiny skillet produces a tapas-sized portion. Perfect for snacking and sharing.
What? Shrimp in a tiny skillet? Why yes, of course. Garides Saganaki. Garida (γαρίδα) being the Greek word for shrimp, and saganaki (σαγανάκι) being the name for a tiny Greek skillet that this dish is cooked in. The signature dish made in the saganaki is a flaming feta cheese appetizer (great band name: flaming cheese appetizer), ergo there is also a dish called Tiny skillet (Saganaki). Here is a recipe.
I know, I know. Shrimp in a tiny skillet is a very silly name. But hey, the Greeks don’t think so. Why should we?
There is something about pedestrian names like this that are jarring to the ear of the Anglophone bourgeoisie. We’d (I’m an Anglophone bourgeois myself) clearly prefer the un-translated Greek name, because it sounds more sophisticated. We know this from the way French food is described in restaurants the English speaking world. Nobody wants to order Blue Ribbon Chicken and Little Sue’s Pancakes. It sounds too proletarian–too much like food served at a state fair picnic. But those same class-conscious people will be all over some Chicken Cordon Bleu and Crêpe Suzette.
Armed with this knowledge, bear in mind that if you find yourself dining in a restaurant with the gran bourgeoisie and your pretentious waiter tells you that your main course comes with haricots vert, and you say “what the hell is that?” your dinner guests may well gasp. You’ve just outed yourself as a proletarian bumpkin. And when the waiter replies with a pitiful eyeroll, “green beans” and you wonder to yourself “well why the hell don’t you just say that?” now you know why.
Garides Saganaki and Descriptive Names
Amuse your bouche on this: In America and other parts of the world, in recent decades, there has been a backlash against this use of French names for food items on the grounds that it’s pretentious (which, of course, it is). This is part of a general sensibility that rejects the notion that a distinction can be drawn between high and low culture. Opera is no better than professional wrestling, Shakespeare is on par with Spiderman Comic books, Beethoven and Lady Gaga are peers, and damn it, haricots vert are just green beans!
Enter the descriptive dish name. See, people feel silly eating Little Sue’s Pancakes (for the record I don’t, and apparently nor do the French). People think Shrimp in a tiny skillet sounds goofy (I think it’s awesome, and apparently so do the Greeks). So instead we now just describe the ingredients you make the dish with as though that’s the name of the dish itself. Following this sensibility, Garides Saganaki is usually described in English as Greek Shrimp and Feta. How incredibly boring. How un-sexy.
I think you see the problem here. Who wants to eat chicken breast pounded flat and wrapped around ham and cheese (Chicken Cordon Bleu)? Who orders pancakes in orange flavored cream sauce lit on fire with brandy (Crêpe Suzette)? Where’s the romance in that?
Recognizing this problem, the Anglophone bourgeoisie (hipsters) calls the dishes by a descriptive list of ingredients, but they describe those ingredients pretentiously. It’s all heirloom baby carrots (immature carrots), artisanal bread (bread made by hand) and foraged blackberries (blackberries someone went out and picked). Et voilà! The revenge of “high culture” masquerading as “low culture”. Or vice versa. I can’t tell anymore.
Anyway, I really do recommend you try the Shrimp in a tiny skillet. It’s an incredibly good tapa. Tapa is a Spanish word for bar food…
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus a bit bmore for drizzling when serving)
- 3 Scallions (white and green parts), sliced finely
- 3 Cloves Garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- Pinch of Kosher Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Dry Greek Oregano
- 2 Teaspoons of Fresh Chopped Dill
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons Ouzo (or other Anise flavored liquor)
- 1 Can (14 oz) of Diced Tomatoes
- ½ Cup Dry White Wine
- ¾ Pound Medium Shrimp, unpeeled but deveined
- 4 Oz Block Feta Cheese
- In a large skillet over medium low heat, gently saute the scallions and garlic in the olive oil with a pinch of salt until the scallions begin to become tender and the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the oregano, 1 teaspoon of the dill, and black pepper and cook a few minutes more. Turn the heat up to medium.
- Add the ouzo and cook for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol. Then add the tomatoes. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about ⅓.
- Add the white wine. Place the block of feta in the middle of the skillet, then arrange the shrimp in a ring in the skillet around the feta. Cover and cook until the shrimp is cooked through (about 4 minutes).
- Remove from heat, uncover, and sprinkle with remaining dill and fresh basil. Drizzle with additional olive oil before serving.