Moussaka

Moussaka, Posts | October 4, 2011 | By

“If at first you don’t succeed…”  I give up too easily.  I only try again once, rarely do I “try, try again.”

No, I’m not talking about the Moussaka recipe, only the post.  I got up very early on Saturday with a big day ahead of me and a long To Do List.  The first two things on my list were to roast muscadine grapes with cherry tomatoes for a muscadine bbq sauce I wanted to make and the second was to post the Moussaka recipe.  I burned the grapes (after they individually exploded) and my blog post was deleted before I could finish it.  I don’t even know what I rambled on about in the first post, but I was very frustrated and was wishing that I had just allowed myself to sleep in when it suddenly disappeared.

The third item on my To Do List was to dig up our septic tank.  It took us over two months to even find it so rather than dreading the process, once we had determined its location, I couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes, to really know that we had found it.  My husband’s back was out so the job was left to me.  Well the way things were going that morning, I was sure that when I did find it I would end up falling in.  Through this whole mess I’ve had nightmares of just such an abominable occurrence.  Well I didn’t fall in and was only able to get it partially uncovered before my own back gave out, but I did get to see it for myself before we called in a crew to finish the job.  And now that I’ve typed all of this I see how inappropriate it is to blog septic tanks on a food blog.  Oh well.  This is my life.  Not always pretty, but here it is.  Anyone who doesn’t like it can look the other way.

The moussaka was fabulous and, I’m proud to say, made with my own little organic eggplants from my garden.  My family loved it too and have asked that I make it “all the time”.  If I had known how easy it is to make I would have been making it “all the time” rather than ordering it in Greek restaurants.  And if this attempt at blogging it doesn’t work, no one will ever see my version.  😉

Ingredients:

2 lbs. eggplant, peeled or unpeeled, thinly sliced to 1/4″ rounds

1 lb. potatoes, peeled, sliced paper thin

1 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and Pepper

1 c. dry bread crumbs

4 oz. grated Romano cheese

Extra virgin olive oil

Bechamel Sauce:

2 T butter

1 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T all-purpose flour

2 c. milk or cream

1/2 tsp. salt

White pepper to taste

Pinch of nutmeg (optional)

Method:

Melt butter with oil in the bottom of a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour to make a roux and stir constantly while cooking for one minute.

Whisk in milk, slowly to prevent lumps from forming, until you have a smooth paste.  Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook stirring constantly for 5 to 8 minutes.  Sauce should be very thick.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add nutmeg.

Meat Sauce:

2 lbs. ground beef, lamb, or a combination of the two

2 1/2 c. onions, medium dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. fresh mint, chiffonade

1/2 c. fresh basil, chiffonade

1/2 c. fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1/2 tsp. dried oregano or around a tablespoon fresh

12 oz. tomato paste

16 oz. tomato puree

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat two or three tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot.  Saute the garlic until translucent.  Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent.

Crumble in ground meat and brown, stirring frequently.

Add herbs and 1 tsp. salt.  Continue cooking through.  Add tomato paste and puree.

Simmer one hour.  Season with salt and pepper throughout cooking time, making the final seasoning to taste at the end.

Prepare eggplant:

Lay the eggplant slices on the sides of a colander and sprinkle with salt.  Continue layering the eggplant and salt in the colander.   Place the colander over a towel to absorb the liquid that will be pulled from the eggplant.  Allow the slices to “sweat” for an hour or so, while you prepare the sauces.

This removes excess liquid and bitterness from the eggplant.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Heat 1/2 ” of oil in the bottom of a skillet over medium to high heat.  Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture.

Pan fry in batches, adding more oil as needed until the slices are tender.

Transfer finished eggplant to absorbent paper.

Assemble:

Make your sauces in advance.  The meat sauce can be kept warm until you are ready to use it.  The bechamel can be chilled and reheated or made as the last step before assembly.  Slice the potatoes just before assembly so that they will not oxidize and turn brown.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a deep casserole dish or baking pan with olive oil.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs into the dish to coat the entire bottom and sides.

Begin layering in the ingredients by lining the bottom of the dish with potato slices.

Place eggplant slices over potato in one layer.

Spoon meat sauce over the eggplant to the sides of the dish.  Sprinkle on a good amount of cheese.

Repeat until all of the ingredients are used.  I ended up with three complete layers of each, but it all depends on the size pan you use.

Cover the final layer of sauce and cheese with the bechamel sauce.  Smooth to the edges.  Add more cheese.  Sprinkle on a bit of nutmeg.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover to allow the sauce and cheese to bubble and brown and cook for an additional 45 minutes.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

 

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