Dish of the Week: Moussaka
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.
Today, we're looking into Moussaka.
Moussaka is a dish made with layered eggplant, ground meat mixed with tomatoes and spices, and (sometimes) potatoes. While there are many variations on the dish, it is most commonly associated with Greek (mousakas) or Turkish (musakka) cuisine.
In Greece, the dish is typically topped with a béchamel (which wasn't added until the 1900s) and served hot, while in Turkey it is served as a room temperature casserole. Arabic versions of the dish, however, are meatless and served cold.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Arabic word musaggaʽa from which the Greek and Turkish names were derived literally means "chilled."
Here, we're sharing a recipe for the Greek version, in which sliced and lightly fried eggplant is layered with a mix of a spiced ground beef or lamb tomato sauce before being topped with a custard. When baked, the custard achieves a beautiful golden crust.
This recipe, adapted from chef Jim Botsacos of Molyvos in NYC, also adds potatoes to the mix, making the dish extra hearty. The béchamel sauce incorporates Greek yogurt for creaminess.
Ingredients serves 12 For the meat sauce: 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 lb ground lamb (or beef) 1 tsp cayenne 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon 1⁄4 tsp ground ginger 1⁄4 tsp ground allspice Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped 2 tbsp tomato paste 1 cup red wine 1 bay leaf
For the eggplant/potato: Canola oil, for frying (about 1½ cups) 1 1⁄2 lbs eggplant, cut crosswise into 1⁄4-inch slices 1 large russet potato (1 lb), cut crosswise into 1⁄4-inch slices
For the béchamel: 6 tbsp. unsalted butter 1⁄2 cup flour 2 1⁄4 cups milk Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste 1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt 3 egg yolks 1 cup grated Parmesan
Puree the tomatoes (along with the juices) in a blender and set aside.
Set a large pot over medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add the lamb, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt and pepper and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large strainer set over a bowl and drain; discard any liquid left in the pot.
Return pot to the heat and add the remaining olive oil along with the garlic and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, 10-15 minutes. Add the reserved tomatoes, lamb, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set meat sauce aside. Discard bay leaf.
Heat canola oil in 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the eggplant slices and fry, turning occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer eggplant slices to paper towels. Working in batches, add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 5 minutes, and transfer to paper towels.
Make a béchamel sauce: Melt butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until pale and smooth, about 2 minutes. Continue whisking constantly and add the milk in a steady stream until incorporated. Allow to reduce to 2 cups, whisking often, about 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Let sauce cool for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and egg yolks and whisk into sauce until smooth.
Heat oven to 400°. Place the reserved potato slices in the bottom of an oval 3-qt. baking dish (or two 1 1⁄2-qt. baking dishes) and season with salt and pepper. Put the eggplant slices on top, season with salt and pepper, and then cover with the meat sauce. Pour the béchamel over the top of the meat sauce and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over the top and bake until golden brown and bubbly, 45-50 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
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