Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Greek Moussaka w/ Ground Lamb and Eggplant

When I made last week's lamb stew, I ground some of the trimmings and extra meat to make moussaka, the custard-topped mixture of spiced meat and eggplant that I loved as a child, when my parents would take me to one of the Greek restaurants on Eastern Avenue in Baltimore (my favorite one closed decades ago but Ikaros is still open - the link is worth following for the intro alone).

The recipe I followed (although halved) did not quite give me the results I wanted. I was able to salvage the meat filling by adding more allspice and cinnamon, plus lemon juice and oregano, but the real problem was the tomatoes. Upon further research I have found that more authentic recipes call for the tomato paste but not the fresh or canned tomatoes. I have written a revised recipe below.

Note: Moussaka has four steps and, from start to finish, will take you several hours and dirty 4 pots or pans. Luckily, you can either do the first three at the same time or each can be done separately and refrigerated prior to assembling and baking the final product.


Ingredients: 2 eggplant, 1 pound ground lamb or beef, 2 onions, 4 tbsp. tomato paste, 1/2 cup red wine (I actually like marsala for this), 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 cup grated cheese, olive oil, 4 cloves garlic
2 Cups Bechemel: 1/4 stick butter, 4 tbsp gravy flour, 2 cups whole milk, 1/4 tsp nutmeg (if grating fresh, use only 1/8), dash Worcestershire.

Equipment: 1 saucepan, 1 frying pan or dutch oven, 1 whisk, 1 spoon, 1 casserole dish, 1 cookie sheet

Step 1:
  • Peal eggplant and slice into 1/4 inch slices.
  • Salt eggplant slices, wait an hour, rinse
  • Toss eggplant in olive oil and roast under broiler until browned (15 min or so)

Step 2:

  • Warm 4 tbsp olive oil in 12" pan on med. heat and add all spices and herbs (borrowing from Indian cooking here)
  • When spices become fragrant, add meat and brown, then break up as much as you can
  • Add wine and tomato paste and lower hear, stirring and continuing to break up meat.
  • Preheat oven to 350 and keep stirring occaisionally while you continue to the next step ( Eventually, you want a relatively dry with meat broken up almost to a paste.)


Step 3:

  • In heavy saucepan on low heat, melt butter.
  • Whisk in flour and nutmeg and stir until flour mixture pulls away from the pan (or starts to burn)
  • Add milk, whisk furiously and crank up the heat, continuing to whisk ever minute until mixture begins to summer (many recipes want you to warm the milk first and slowly whisk it in a 1/4 cup at a time. It takes longer and dirties another pot, but otherwise has no noticeable effect)
  • When thick enough to coat edge of a spoon, take off heat and wait a minute
  • Then, whisk in three egg yolks and a dash of Worcestershire.
  • If it gets too thick, whisk in a little bit of milk but don't put it back on the heat after yolks are added
  • Add grated cheese

Step 4: Assembly

  • Oil casserole dish
  • Layer half the eggplant slices on the bottom (some recipes call for bread crumbs to line the pan first but I would rather have more sauce than pasty bread crumbs in my food)
  • Spread meat evenly
  • Layer the rest of the eggplant
  • Spread bechemel over top
  • Place in oven on 350 for 45 minutes or until browned. You may need to rotate
  • Allow to cool - when no longer warm but still hot, cut into squares and serve.
  • (an arugula salad tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and feta cheese would be nice)

Frugal Factor: Good thing this recipe is easy to freeze because it takes forever to make it. As for money, It was 1/4 of the leg of lamb I bought for $19. Let's just say $5. Tomato paste, $0.50; 1/2 cup wine, $1; eggplant, $2 at discount produce place, $4 at supermarket; milk, $0.50, butter, $0.25. Flour and spices are pantry items; let's say $0.50. This recipe made 8 portions so that's $1.22-$1.46 per portion.

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