Every time I think about Moussaka two distinct memories come to mind:
1. Sitting with my friend Reese in the Meteora region of Greece while on the Humanities tour in college at a quaint cafe eating Moussaka for the first and only time until today.
2. A line from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when Tula sits at the table with all the “popular” girls eating their white bread sandwiches who snootily ask her what she is eating. She cheerfully replies “Moussaka” to which the girls laugh and say “ew! moose ka-ka!?”
That being said; I really don’t remember what the Moussaka in Greece tasted like, except that it was good! And the Moussaka I made was delicious!
OK, here’s the basics of the Greek workout know as Moussaka:
-Skin and boil 2 large potatoes (supposed to be Youkon Gold or other yellow potato but my grocery stores did not have a great potato selection. I think they had small bags for like $4 but that seemed like too much for me) baking potatoes worked fine. Boil so that it is slightly under cooked. To skin potatoes- place in boiling water for a few minutes then into ice water- the skin will come off easily! Then return to boiling water to cook rest of the way.
– skined 3 small eggplants and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Soak these in salt water for about 15 minutes to take away bitterness.
– While eggplant is soaking- heat olive oil in a pan and sauté 1 onion onions and 3-4 cloves of garlic then add 1 lb ground beef. Brown meat and add seasonings: 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1tsp black pepper, a tablespoon of tomato paste. I was supposed to add allspice but figured I could make do without since I didn’t own any. Then I learned that allspice if like nutmeg/cinnamin like.. so I just added more cinnnamin and some nutmeg! It worked fine. Add salt and a teaspoon or 2 of lemon zest and tablespoon of lemon juice toward the end.
– Turn oven Broil on high. Remove eggplant from salt water and let drain on paper towel. Dip eggplant into olive oil and layer on a baking sheet. Broil for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
-While eggplant is broiling, begin to prepare the Bechamel sauce which will go on top.
– Preheat oven 350 degrees.
– This is where things get really interesing.. ok- heat 2 cups of milk without letting it simmer (supposed to be whole milk.. but we drink 1% so that’s what I used! Probably changed the consistency a bit, but it worked!) In separate pan heat butter to melt then whisk in 1/4 cup flour and allow to simmer slightly.
Little by little stir in steamy milk. Then stir in a few small dashes of nutmeg and whisk quickly. Separate out 2 egg yolks and wisk up in a separate bowl. Add a little of the sauce into the egg yolk, mix then stir back into the rest of the sauce.
– Then slice the potato into thin slices. layer the bottom of a baking dish with the potato slices- overlapping a bit. Put down a layer of eggplant. Then top with the meat sauce. Then cheese (the recipe called for fancy expensive cheese that was not in my budget to I used a block of mozzerella and grated it myself!- it of course worked fine, but I’m sure changed the taste. Expensive cheese can be tasty, but not necessary, epecially if you are on a budget.) After the cheese, pour on the bechamel sauce and top with more cheese.
Finally put in the oven for 30-45 minutes! It will come out looking delicious.
I also learned that this meal is a fantasitc leftover. Each time I ate it I think it got better and not a morsel was thrown away! For a couple who tend to use left overs more as “science experiments” in the fridge rather than for dinner, that is saying a lot! Looking back, this wasn’t too hard to make, but it sure was involved- definitely not a “30 min. meal” but worth the effort! I hope to try it again in the future with the whole milk and some better cheeses. Apparently Moussaka can be Mediterranean, Indian and a slue of other ethnicities and I’m sure each one has distinct differences all worth trying out. I would recommend using a recipe if you want to make this one yourself though as there is a lot involved. I roughly followed the recipe on this site: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/moussaka/