Moussaka

Moussaka is a Greek oven casserole made of ground lamb or beef sauteed in garlic, onions and tomatoes, layered with eggplants, cheese,  and topped with bechamel sauce.  Some add potatoes to make moussaka's foundation firm and and not limp.

To make it more authentic I used Halloumi cheese which has the texture of mozzarella and the brine moisture of a feta.  It's amazingly delicious.  But if you can't find Halloumi cheese in your grocery store you can use mozzarella or cheddar, and parmesan cheese.

There are three basic layers in this dish; the vegetables, the ground meat, and the bechamel sauce.  I prefer to make just three layers.

Since making healthy meals is my priority, the procedures used were substituted with ways to lessen the use of too much oil and salt. 

For example, instead of frying the vegetables, they were grilled with very little oil in a grill pan.  The eggplants were soaked in water with little salt instead of individually sprinkling them with salt so they do not turn dark in color or to remove the bitter taste.

Here's how I made my Moussaka:

Meat Sauce

1 1/2 pound ground lamb
1 1/2 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 big finely chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 finely chopped roma tomatoes (cooked on medium-low to simmer for 5 minutes)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons oregano powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine
3 beaten egg whites
1/2 cup finely chopped italian parsley - for topping

Heat a pan with the olive oil on medium-high heat and saute the onions.  Add the garlic and cook until onions are transparent.  Add the ground beef or ground lamb or a combination of both and cook until brown or no longer pink. Add the red wine and cook a few minutes more.   Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Add the oregano powder. Cook for about 5 more minutes to let the flavors mix together. Set aside to cool.

When cooled, pass through a collander to remove liquid.  Add eggwhites to the meat mixture and mix well.

Vegetables

2 big eggplants (aubergines) - sliced 1/4" thick
6 medium-sized gold yukon potatoes - sliced 1/4" thick
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola spray oil
3 tablespoons bread crumbs

Slice both eggplants and potatoes about 1/4" thick.  Soak separately in water with salt and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Wipe dry with paper towels.

Heat a grill pan to high and add the oil.  Grill eggplants and potatoes until lightly brown. Set aside.

Bechamel Sauce

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks
dashes of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup Halloumi cheese for sprinkling on top (mozzarella or cheddar, and parmesan will do)

Heat a sauce pan on medium and melt the butter.  When completely melted, add the flour beating with a whisk until fully incorporated.  Add the milk and beat faster with a whisk so no lumps are formed. Consistency should be creamy.  Add dashes of salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool. In case you find lumps in your sauce, pour the bechamel sauce through a sieve and press with a rubber spatula to remove lumps.

When cooled, add the beaten egg yolks and fold until mixed together.

Layer your Moussaka

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a big rectangular baking dish, sprinkle generously with bread crumbs. Layer the potatoes (overlapping eaach other), then the eggplants.  Top generously with breadcrumbs and then with the cheeses.  Layer the ground meat mixture evenly on top.  Sprinkle with parsley and top with the cheeses. Last but not least, pour the bechamel sauce on top covering all the ground meat mixture layer underneath.  Add freshly grated nutmeg on top. Finally,  top with the cheeses generously.  Bake in the oven for one hour.  Let it rest for 15 or more  minutes before serving.

You can make this dish in advance for dinner parties.  Keep in the refrigerator and microwave each serving for 1 minute or reheat the whole baking dish in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.

* Serve with Greek salad
* Serves about 10 to 12 pax or more
* Tested and tried at Chris' kitchen 05/23/2011

Comments

Ben said…
I've never had this dish before, but it looks really good. I think I can get all the ingredients down here, even the cheese!
It really is, Ben and it's really easy to make. Worth trying.

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