Moussaka is an eggplant dish popular in Balkan and Mediterranean cuisines, with many local and regional variations. The same name and recipe is found throughout the lands that were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. It is perhaps the most widely recognized of all Greek dishes and was made famous by the legendary Greek chef, Nicholas Tselementes. It can be time consuming to prepare, but you will find that once complete it is a very worthwhile endeavor. The eggplant version is the traditional rendition, however you can also layer in potatoes, zucchini or other vegetables. This recipe here makes a bountiful amount of food.
- 5-6 medium eggplants
- 1-2 cups olive oil (for frying)
- 2 medium onions (diced)
- 4-5 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 .5 pound ground beef
- 1 cup white/red wine
- 4 large ripe tomatoes (crushed)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- salt( to taste)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
- a handful of parsley
- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 cups milk, warmed
- 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese
Peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1 inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in to 1/2 inch slices. Mix salt and a tablespoon sugar. Salt and sugar the eggplant slices liberally. Let them sit for at least 15-20 minutes, preferably an hour. The salt and sugar helps to remove some of the bitterness of the eggplant. Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Deep fry them.
In a large sauté pan, add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef (or lamb) until the pink color disappears. Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, oregano, 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.
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, add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens. Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens.
Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan) 40x28 cms. Place a layer of eggplants on the bottom. Add meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices, top with meat sauce and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Smooth the meat sauce with the back of a spoon. Pour the béchamel sauce over the meat 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 parmesan cheese and breadcrums.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes until the béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 ? 20 minutes before slicing and serving the moussakka.