Moussaka

brown eggplant

The last couple of days I’ve been on a real eggplant kick. Don’t ask me why, it just spoke to me and I am rolling with it like a champ. Last night was garlic eggplant with rice, and tonight we have….

Moussaka! A tasty, hearty, totally awesome Greek/Middle Eastern casserole dish that will warm you right to the very core. My friend Leah described it as “lasagna made with eggplant instead of noodles”, which is a very apt description. Of course, that makes it sound a tad healthy, which is a bit of a stretch. It starts out with good intentions, and then goes all rogue with a solid helping of bechamel sauce.

But there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

The end result is a melting pile of goodness that marries soft eggplant, spiced meat, and salty cheesiness. It’s perfect with a hunk of bread to sop up the goodness, but if you’re anything like me you might just feel like picking up your plate and licking it clean.

I found the recipe (I’m not super familiar with moussaka and therefore didn’t feel terribly comfortable messing around with the ingredients) from Allrecipes.com, which is one of my favorite recipe sites.

You will need:
3 eggplants (medium)
olive oil (preferably spray)
1 T butter
1 lb lean ground beef or lamb
S & P to taste
2 onions, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 t mixed herbs (herbs de provence, a mixture of the basics, your fav blend)
1/2 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1/2 c red wine (I may have added a bit more…)
1 egg, beaten
1 c grated parm

For the bechamel sauce:
4 cups milk
1 stick butter
6 T flour
S & P to taste

Peel the eggplant:

And slice it into 1/2 in moons.

Lay them out on paper towels with a sprinkling of salt to draw out the moisture. This step is very important!! If you don’t get some of that water out, it will drown your casserole while it’s baking.

In a dutch oven heat up the butter and add the meat, onion, garlic, and S&P.

When the meat has browned, add the spices, tomato sauce, and wine.

Bring to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes, or until reduced and delicious.

Meanwhile, heat the milk over low heat.

Put your broiler on high and lay the eggplant slices on a baking sheet. You will probably have to do this in two batches!

Spray the eggplant with the olive oil and place under the broiler, turning once they’re brown. Set aside.

The original recipe calls for pan-frying in oil, but that just sounded like way too much work. Broiling was easier and used less oil, which is always a plus!

Heat the butter for the bechamel in a large pan. When melted, sprinkle on the flour and whisk in until smooth.

Add the milk slowly, whisking after about every cup in order to smooth out lumps gradually.

Once it’s thickened, turn off the heat.

Your meat sauce should be thick and smelling magical at this point.

Turn off the heat and stir in the beaten egg. Preheat your oven to 350.

Now you are ready to rumble!

Spray a 13″x9″ pan with olive oil and layer half of the eggplant on the bottom. Pour all of the meat sauce over the eggplant:

Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese.
Layer the rest of the eggplant on top…
Sprinkle with more cheese. Then, completely douse it with the bechamel sauce!
Don’t be shy! Really drown that sucker.
That’s a very happy piece of eggplant.
Sprinkle more cheese on top and pop the pan into the oven for 45min-1hr. Since all of my components were piping hot (I was very hungry and patience is not one of my strong points when my blood sugar has nose-dived to diabetic coma leves) it only took 45 minutes to get nice and brown:
Leah and I carved into that sucker and ate it with some lovely whole-wheat sourdough.
On my grandmother’s china, of course.
It was so, so nommy. I would definitely recommend chopping the onions very fine, unless you like chunks of them in the sauce. And definitely eat with bread! Lots of bread! Bread all the time! Yay bread!
Nommmmmm

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