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Elena's Moussaka

This is the recipe for the moussaka I brought to Angels Yule.

This is a very rich dish - you will probably want a salad to go with it.

It can be baked very nicely in a crockpot dish in the oven so you can then take it to an event in the pot heater and keep it warm.

A word on the cheese: All sorts of cheese can be used here, and to be most authentic, use kefalotyri. I used flaked Parmesan cheese

I've modifed the original Moussaka recipie. It called for soaking the sliced eggplant in salty water first, I don’t taste anything bitter in eggplant so I skipped that step. If you actively loathe eggplant this recipe is also very good with zucchini. Potatoes have been suggested, I tried it, but it’s too starchy for my taste.

Note: the flour in the roux was replaced with white rice flour. I've tried it with both wheat and rice flour and I can't taste or see any difference between the two.

    -=-Elena Jardiniz

Ingredients:

Meat sauce:

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb or beef

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 chopped onion

4 chopped garlic cloves

3/4 teaspoon allspice

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 Tbsp dried oregano

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

Salt to taste

Bechamel sauce:

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

The moussaka:

3 medium globe eggplants
    If you really do not like eggplant use zucchini.

1 cup grated mizithra cheese (or pecorino or Parmesan)

Olive oil

Recipe:

The meat sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and brown the ground meat and onions. I don't like my onions crunchy so I cook the onions until transparent, then add the meat. By the way, the meat will brown best if you don't stir it. Sprinkle salt over the meat and onions.

Once the meat is browned and the onions have softened, add the garlic, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, oregano and tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the red wine and mix well. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat and continue to simmer gently, uncovered for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Set the sauce aside.

The eggplants:

If you find eggplant too strong flavored you can soak in salty water, then discard the water before grilling. I have never done this so I don't know how long you should soak them. Smaller eggplant have a milder flavor than large ones but I believe the bitterness some notice is in the skin - removing about half of it as described ought to remove the strong flavor. Use European eggplant, the black ovals, not the bright purple smaller Asian ones…. or if you use them, please email me how they taste!

Slice the top and bottom off the eggplants. Cut wide strips of the skin off the eggplants to give them a striped appearance. A little skin on the eggplant is good for texture, but leaving it all on makes the moussaka hard to cut later, and can add bitterness, which you don’t want. (Some moussaka recipes leave the skin on and have you slice the eggplants lengthwise, which is an option if you prefer.) Slice the eggplant (or zucchini) into 1/4 inch rounds.

Brush with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper, grill until a little darkened, flip, oil, dust repeat.

Set aside.

The béchamel:

Heat milk in a pot on medium heat until steamy (about 160 degrees). Do not let simmer.

Heat the butter in a pot large enough to contain both the milk and the butter over medium heat. When the butter has completely melted, slowly whisk in the flour. Let this roux simmer over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Do not let it get too dark.

Little by little, pour in the steamy milk, stirring constantly. It will set up and thicken dramatically at first, but keep adding milk and stirring, the sauce will loosen. Return the heat to medium. Add about a teaspoon of salt and the nutmeg. Stir well.

Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to combine. Temper the eggs so they don’t scramble when you put them into the sauce. Using two hands, one with a whisk, the other with a ladle, slowly pour in a couple ladle’s worth of the hot béchamel into the eggs, whisking all the time. Slowly pour the egg mixture back into the béchamel while whisking the mixture. Keep the sauce on very low heat, do not let simmer or boil.

The moussaka :

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Layer a casserole with half of the eggplant slices.

Cover the eggplant slices with the meat sauce.

Layer remaining eggplant slices on top of the meat.

Sprinkle half the cheese on top.

Ladle the béchamel over everything in an even layer.

Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.

Let the moussaka cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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