Seafood seems to have a bit of a bad rap as being something finicky and difficult to make, but really it’s the unsung hero of the realm of quick and easy dinners.
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With thousands of miles of shoreline, dozens of islands, and countless mountain lakes it should come as very little surprise that seafood in one form or another makes up such a prominent part of the Greek diet. Of course we have all heard about how healthy it is, but that’s just a bonus. Let’s face it, it tastes good and that’s reason enough to eat it!
Unlike other animal proteins that can take an hour or more to be properly cooked, the texture of fish and shellfish allows them to be prepared in a much shorter amount of time. Their flavors also blend well with so many other ingredients, far more than people realize. This means that really the hardest part is deciding exactly what you want to put together.
Saganaki (sah-gah-NAH-kee) actually refers to the type of pan this meal is traditionally prepared in. Typically shrimp is the main ingredient, but a mixture of shellfish is clearly just as wonderful. The dish is usually started on the stove then finished off in the oven, but I just keep it on the stove for simplicity’s sake. The end result is a hearty seafood stew that’s perfect for dunking bread in and is quick and easy enough to put together on the busiest of evenings.
Some quick notes before you begin:
I use a frozen seafood medley that has a mixture of scallops, shrimp, calamari rings, and precooked mussels in the shell. Any similar blend like this will work, fresh or frozen. If you are using any shellfish so fresh that it’s still living, be sure to cook it completely!
It is really easy to overcook seafood, so keep an eye on it. Most seafood will turn a more opaque color and become firm, and shrimp will turn pink when it’s cooked through. Cooking it longer than this point will result in an overly tough texture.
A lot of moisture comes out of shellfish as it cooks, so be sure to simmer down your tomatoes before adding it to keep your saganaki from becoming too watery. You don’t want to try cooking out the moisture after the seafood is added or it will get overcooked.
This recipe gets a nice flavor kick from ouzo, the Greek anise flavored liquor. If you can’t find ouzo, any other anise flavored liquor can be substituted, or even white wine.
Greek Seafood Saganaki Recipe
- 1/2 to 3/4 lb. onion, cut into slices
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 to 5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 2 Tbsp.)
- 2 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (or 3 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup ouzo (or white wine)
- 1 cup lightly packed chopped fresh parsley
- 2 1/2 pounds any combination of shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, calamari, etc. (if frozen, defrost according to the package directions)
Put the oil and onions in a pan and turn the stove to high. Once the onions start to sizzle, turn the heat down to medium and continue to sauté the onions until they are translucent and just starting to brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute.
Add the tomatoes, ouzo, and parsley. Stir everything together and simmer until much of the liquid is cooked off. Add the seafood and gently stir in. Cook until the seafood is cooked through. It will be opaque and any shrimp should have turned pink.
Serve like a stew or even over rice or pasta. A nice chunk of bread is great for getting every last drop. A topping of crumbled feta and drizzle of olive oil will also be welcome additions! Kali orexi (good appetite)!