Saturday, September 21, 2013

Moussaka

As we were buying egg plant at Sheila and Johnny Greene's this morning, we got into a discussion of using the egg plant in moussaka, one of very favorite dishes. It has such a rich, wonderful flavor that we thought it necessary to share with our vast readership . . .

Here is the recipe for Moussaka that Carol uses.  ** Please see note about freezing part of the full recipe.
 
The basic recipe is lifted from the "Great Cooking: The Best Recipes from The Time-Life Books ", a venerable, ancient cookbook series no longer in print. 

This recipe serves 6-8 people. You can make the whole recipe and then cook only the portion you would use and see note at bottom about the remaining moussaka. Or  if you only want to make half a recipe, cut everything in half.

 Ingredients

 Three one-pound eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into ½ inch slices.
Salt
1 cup of flour
1-2 cups of olive oil( I tend to use less than this)
1 cup of finely sliced onions
2 pounds of ground lamb
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped fine or 1 cup of chopped, drained tomatoes ( I use canned tomatoes)
1 cup of canned tomato puree
1 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons freshly grated kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese( I use the parm)

 Rich cream sauce

2 cups of milk
1 tablespoon of butter
3 eggs
¼ cup of flour
½ teaspoon salt
 

To prepare:

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt, place them side by side on paper towels, and weight them down with heavy platters or casseroles.  Let the juices drain for 20-30 minutes, then dry the slices with fresh paper towels. Spread the flour on Wax paper or in a dish large enough to hold a few slices at a time and dredge the slices in the flour and tap off any excess.

In a heavy 12-inch skillet, heat enough of the olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  When it is hot, but not smoking, place a few eggplant slices at a time in the skillet, being careful to leave enough room between the slices so you can turn them as they brown, about a minute or two per side, watching to be sure they do not burn.  When they are browned enough, transfer the slices onto clean paper towels to drain.  Add more olive oil as needed.  Continue with the browning until all the slices are browned.

In the same skillet, put a bit more olive oil in the skillet, and heat over a moderate heat.  Add the onions and stir frequently; cook them for 8-10 minutes or until they are soft and lightly colored. Stir in the ground lamb,  mashing it with the back of a spoon, to break up any lumps, and cook until no traces of pink show.  Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of salt and a few grindings of black pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Stirring frequently, cook briskly until most of the liquid in the pan evaporates and the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape almost solidly in the spoon.  This will take about 30 minutes or so.  Taste for seasoning. 

While the meat mixture is cooking, prepare the sauce. 
Heat 1 ½ cups of the milk and the butter in a small pan until bubbles appear around the edges. Remove from the heat.  In a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan, beat the eggs with a wire whisk,  blend in the flour, the salt and remaining ½ cup of milk and whisk until smooth.  Place the saucepan over moderate heat and, stirring constantly with the whisk, slowly add the milk mixture in a thin stream.  Still stirring, cook until the sauce thickens heavily, this may take about 7-10 minutes.  When thick enough, set the sauce off to the side. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  To assemble the moussaka, spread half the eggplant slices in overlapping rows in the bottom of a 14-9-3 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle the slices evenly with 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese, and pour the lamb mixture evenly over the slices being sure to spread to the corners of the dish, using a rubber spatula.   Arrange the rest of the eggplant slices  on top and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Pour the cream sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, then increase the heat to 400 degrees F and bake for an additional 15 minutes  or so to brown the top.  Let the moussaka rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving it. 

** If you make the full recipe but will only use half of it, place the moussaka in two dishes.  Cook one and at this point, once it has cooled, cover the second dish tightly with foil and freeze to use another time.
 
And I know, now that your taste buds are fully alert, that you would love to know about wine pairings with the Moussaka. The Moussaka is so rich and flavorful that it needs a red wine, but not one that is too heavy. Here are some suggestions:
 
Tempranillo: A wine with black plum, boysenberry, and secondary flavors of pepper and vanilla
Syrah/Shiraz: A red wine with blackberry, plum, and pepper.
Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape: A spicy red wine with ripe flavors of black fruit, coffee, and pepper.
 
So, relax and savor the Moussaka and wine. You might even want to toss up a nice Greek Salad, but perhaps we can add that later.

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