Moussaka is made everywhere in Greece and is most popular with the eggplant rendition, but could also be made with potatoes, squash or artichokes. My first taste of Moussaka was at Manoli’s in Sifnos, Greece this summer. The tasty lamb with the creamy béchamel intrigued me. This recipe will make 2 gratin dishes. Multiply as necessary. You could also multiply to make a large 13x9 pan amount. If you did this, cut the eggplant lengthwise instead of into circles. My husband gave this the stamp of approval.
We had a blast cooking this on our Greek Feast episode.
(Baked Eggplant with Ground meat and Béchamel)
1 eggplant sliced very thinly in circles
2-3 tablespoons Flour
1 tablespoon Olive oil
Slice eggplant into thin circles and coat with flour. Sauté eggplant in olive oil to brown on both sides. Make sure not to overlap eggplant in the pan. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
1 1b Ground lamb shoulder (*you could use ground beef if you don’t have lamb)
1 tablespoon Cumin
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
¼ cup Onions (finely diced)
¼ cup Carrots (finely diced)
1/8 cup Celery (finely diced)
3 cloves Garlic (finely diced)
Fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ tablespoons Tomato paste
*It is important to sear the lamb. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Sear the ground lamb shoulder. Break it down with a wooden spoon. Drain the lamb and then re-sear. Add more olive oil to the pan. Add salt and pepper to season. Add cumin. Make sure it is getting a nice caramelization. You start with fatty meat for flavor and it keeps it from getting dry. Drain again and keep meat in the strainer. Turn down the heat to medium low. Add more olive oil to the same pan and then add diced onions, carrots and celery. Then add diced garlic.
Add the leaves of fresh thyme. *You can use dried if you don’t have fresh available.
After the vegetables have cooked for 5-10 minutes, add lamb back to the pan and cook together. Move the ingredients to the side and add tomato paste. Cook it and then stir into the rest of the ingredients.
If there is fat, drain it. If not deglaze with tomato juice. Turn the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes.
Taste it. You might need to add more salt or cumin. You can cover and cook until some of the moisture dries up.
1/4 cup Butter
1/4 cup Flour
2 1/2 cup Milk
Melt butter in a saucepan and add flour to melted butter. Once it is golden, take it off the heat and add cold milk a little at the time while continuously whisking. As soon as it thickens, add more milk. Continue to add milk a little at a time until it gets to the perfect consistency. Then let it simmer for at least 30 seconds and add salt, nutmeg and pepper.
Finely ground cornmeal
Grated Parmesan cheese (*Could use kefalotyri cheese if available)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease gratin dishes with olive oil. Layer eggplant on the bottom. You can also loop the eggplant on the side if you are going to un-mold. Add lamb. Add béchamel. *Optional: you could also add in a layer of tomatoes. Add some grated Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Fill up the dish and continue to press down the ingredients. Finish with meat and béchamel on top. Add cornmeal and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Put the gratin dishes on top of a baking pan to avoid spillage in the oven.
*This dish is best the next day.
Photos by Emily Clack