Moussaka


Greek Eggplant and Ground Meat Moussaka

Moussaka is a casserole made by layering eggplant with a spiced meat filling then topping it off with a creamy bechamel sauce that is baked to golden perfection.

The traditional version of Moussaka uses eggplant.  However you can also layer in potatoes, zucchini, or whatever vegetables you prefer or are available.

Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggplants – medium size
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1 lb. potatoes
  • 2 large onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 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
  • 8 egg whites, lightly beaten (reserve yolks for bechamel)
  • 1 cup grated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese

 

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg

 

Preparation:

Prep the Vegetables:

Partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1 inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in to 1/2 inch slices. Places eggplant slices in colander and salt them.

Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down. Place the colander in the sink so that excess moisture can be drawn out. They will need to sit for at least 20 minutes - preferably an hour. The salt helps to remove some of the bitterness of the eggplant also.

Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they are just done. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Drain, cool and slice them in 1/4 inch slices. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Add a splash of water to the egg whites and beat them lightly with a fork. Add breadcrumbs to a flat plate.

Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Place breaded eggplant slices on baking sheets and bake at 400 degrees for 1/2 an hour, turning them over once during cooking.

When eggplant is finished cooking, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.


Make the Meat Filling:

In a large sauté pan, brown the ground beef (or lamb) until the pink color disappears. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding 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. It should be a drier, chunkier, tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Make the Béchamel Sauce:

Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.

Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.

Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens.


Assemble the Moussaka:

Grease a large deep rectangular baking pan.  Sprinkle bottom of the pan with breadcrumbs. Leaving 1/4 inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant slices.

Add meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow cooling for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

You can make this dish ahead up until the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Make the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.