Posted on: Monday, November 12, 2012

While many opt for Shepherd's Pie or lasagna for a warming baked dish, we Greeks prefer Moussaka. Traditionally, the impressive casserole features a layering of spiced meat and fried eggplant, topped with a cheesy, creamy sauce. While some Greek families have their own variation with the addition of zucchini, mushrooms or artichokes, we add our own little Irish flare by adding sliced potatoes.

Commonly, the rich Mediterranean classic has many steps to follow, so it is fun to divide and conquer the steps with family members and friends. Out of the oven, the bubbling pan of melted ingredients with crispy browned edges permeates the kitchen with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.


2 medium sized eggplants sliced crosswise into 1/3-inch rounds.
2 large russet potatoes, peeled

Meat Sauce Layer

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
12 oz ground lamb
1/4 c red wine (whatever you’re drinking!)
2 T tomato paste
1 28 oz can plum tomatoes, chopped (we love Pastene)
1 clove minced garlic
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 c water
salt and pepper

Bechamel Cheese Layer

6 T unsalted butter
6 T flour
2 c whole milk
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1 c Kefalotyri cheese (or Parmigiano Reggiano), grated
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place potatoes in a pot and add enough water to cover them. Over high heat bring the water to a boil and boil for 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from heat, cool, and slice crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds.

Salt and pepper both sides of the eggplant rounds and let stand for 30 minutes on paper towels.

To prepare the meat sauce, heat 1 T EVOO in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until slightly golden and translucent, 6-8 minutes. Add the ground lamb and cook over medium heat, breaking up the pieces until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and reduce. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup water. Simmer until thick and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Rinse the eggplant and dry. Heat 2 T EVOO in a skillet over medium-high heat. In batches, fry the eggplant on both sides, until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Drain well on paper towels while sauteeing the remaining eggplant, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

For the Bechamel and cheese layer, heat the milk over low heat in a small saucepan. In another saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, and heat for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil while stirring, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thick. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of the grated cheese and stir to combine.

To assemble the moussaka, oil a 9x12 baking dish. Arrange 1/2 of the eggplant on the bottom and 1/3 of the meat sauce. Place an even layer of sliced potatoes over the sauce and another 1/3 meat sauce. Add the remaining eggplant in an even layer and the last portion of meat sauce. Pour the bechamel and cheese sauce over, spreading to cover the entire surface. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, until the top is golden brown and the eggplant and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. Let the moussaka rest for about 15 minutes before cutting into squares. Serves 8-10.

Moussaka is the ultimate one-dish meal for any group gathering served with thick-cut bread and a simple Greek salad.


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