Grant McWilliams

Moussaka

Description:

Moussaka was made famous by the legendary Greek chef, Nicholas Tselementes and is available in virtually all Greek restaurants. You may also find it in other eastern European restaurants in various forms. The Casserole is built with a layer of bread crumbs followed by several layers of eggplant and meat/tomatoes then topped with Bechamel sauce. Some versions also include potatoes and/or zuchinni. I've not included either in this version although if you want sliced potatoes feel free to add them to the bottom layer.

Ingredients:
  • 3-4 eggplants, about 4 lbs. total
  • 1 lb. potatoes
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb
  • 2 large onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Bechamel Sauce:
  • 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 4 egg whites, whipped to peaks
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg

For the Eggplant

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cover two half sheet pans with foil

2. Slice the eggplants into half inch thick slices. Liberally salt the eggplant slices and let sit for 15 minutes

3. Place the eggplant slices on the half sheet pans and bake until browned - about 30 minutes turning them over once during baking

4. When brown remove slices from oven and set temperature to 350 degrees.

For the Meat

1. While the eggplants bake brown the lamb in a fry pan on medium heat until it's no longer pink, add the onion and sauté until translucent - about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute more.

2. Add the wine to the pan and allow it to simmer until reduced by about 20%. 

3. Add the cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Bechamel

1. Make a roux by melting 1 cup of butter in a medium sauce pan until bubbling. Add 1 cup of flour and wisk until tan colored and the flour smell has gone. 

2. Add 4 cups warm milk to the mixture. Simmer over low heat until the mixture thickens but doesn't boil - about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to cling to the back of a spoon.

3. Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg, return to the heat and warm

4. Fold in the whipped egg whites to give the sauce more body

Assembling the Moussaka

1. Using a large 13x9 casserole dish sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the bottom

2. Top with a layer of eggplant, cover with a layer of sauce mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 of the grated cheese. Continue adding layers of eggplant, sauce mixture and grated cheese until near the top of the casserole dish.

3. Pour Bechamel over the top and sprinkle with any remaining grated cheese.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until Bechamel turns brown. 

5. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

 
Notes:

This isn't exactly my recipe but I seem to have lost it. Expect changes as I recreate it.

Some Moussaka recipes use beef instead of lamb. I think the lamb adds an important flavor element but can be more expensive. The cost of lamb at $5.99/lb has been calculated into the Cost per Portion below. If cost is an issue mixing lamb and beef 50/50 is a good compromise.

Some Moussaka recipes also add 1 lb of potatoes. I don't usually do this but if you do want potatoes boil them, slice them and add them as the foundation layer over the bread crumbs.

Most recipes ask for red wine and aren't specific. A few ask for white wine. I'm not sure about the white wine idea as the red wine adds important flavors. I prefer a nice Cote de Rhone red but I've used others with decent results. Given a choice I go for a medium or full bodied dry red. 

I really like a thick Bechamel. I've added some of the shredded cheese to the Bechamel and also folded in whipped eggwhites to great effect (although I end up with more volume than I can use).

I also like serving homemade wheat pita and tzatziki sauce before the meal.

Recipe Author: Grant
Portions: 12
Difficulty: Average
Origin: Greece
Vegetarian: No
Cost per Portion: $1
Preparation Time: 1 hr
Located in: Main Courses