It’s a funny thing when you start researching a recipe. It begins with one simple recipe… then two; both asserting THEY are the traditional recipe. Then there’s recipes three through 15 with only 1/2 of the ingredients – also staking their claim to the birthright. Then there are the ones with potatoes for the base, and an equal number disallowing any knowledge of potatoes. Ones with eggplant stack up against the horde of Greek Mothers that adamantly state there are no eggplants in moussaka.
Beef vs Lamb
Phyllo Crust vs Bread Crumbs
Traditional Greek Cheese vs Cheddar & Parmesan
Crushed Tomatoes vs Puree
Bechamel vs White Sauce
and so it went for 62 separate and distinct recipes… each and every one claiming to be the one and only. In the end, I chose none of them as my recipe. Instead, I became a little like Dr. Frankenstein and created my Greek monster out of 12 different moussakas.
So, why all the fuss?
Here’s the thing. Like a lot of people, I have my own ideas what good moussaka should taste like. I’ve had it in countless Greek Diners and at nameless pot-luck dinners and church socials. Hell, I’ve even had it with green beans tucked in-between the layers of savory meat and pillow-y white sauce. And, while most are good… (it is a casserole, after all), none have been particularly memorable..
Therefore, if you’re going to go through the all the steps, spend good money on the ingredients, and jump through all the hoops to get there – you might as well make it good… like, BEST you ever had – good.
Plate Fodder’s Traditional, Best Ever Moussaka
Serves 6 to 8
For the Filling:
3/4 Pound Ground Beef
1 Pound Ground Lamb
1 Large Sweet Onion (Vidalia or Texas Sweet)
2 Cloves Garlic – Minced
1 Cup Red Wine
1/2 Cup Minced Parsley
1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
1 14 Ounce Can Stewed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 1/4 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
For the Veg & Base:
2 Medium Eggplants
3 Small or 2 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Cups Fresh Breadcrumbs
4 Egg Whites – Beaten (Reserve the yolks)
1 Cup Grated AGED Provolone
For the Bechamel Sauce:
1/2 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup AP Flour
2 Cups Scalded Milk
4 Egg Yolks
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
Tools of the Trade:
Dutch Oven 14″ x 2″ x 8″ Casserole Dish Assorted Bowls Spatula Whisk Baking Sheet Parchment Paper Grater
Make the Veg & Base:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the potatoes in a wet cloth towel and micro on high for 4 minutes. Allow to cool a bit then scrape off the skins and slice into 1/2″ slices. Spray with cooking spray, place on a baking sheet. Peel the eggplant leaving 1″ thick stripes of peeling down the length and cut into 1/2″ Slices. Beat the egg whites and place the eggplant slices for 5 minutes. Shake of the excess goo, and coat in fresh breadcrumbs. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake the eggplant and potatoes for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Set aside
Layer the potatoes across the bottom of the casserole; top with a layer of the eggplant and top with 1/3 of the grated cheese.
Make the Filling:
Saute the beef and lamb in the dutch oven until just browned. Add the onions, garlic, cinnamon and allspice and cook over medium heat until the onions are tender. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, parsley, wine, sugar, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Cook until the filling is thick with no running liquid in the pot.
Pour all the filling over the prepared casserole and top with the remainder of the eggplant. Sprinkle with another 1/3 of the cheese.
Make the Bechamel:
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and add the flour – Whisk well to combine. Slowly add the scalded milk; stirring constantly until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the egg yolks and nutmeg. Return to the heat and continue to stir the sauce until it is thick – about 3 minutes.
Lower the heat to 350. Pour the sauce over the prepared dish; making sure the top is evenly coated with bechamel and the filling is completely covered. Top with the remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
Allow the moussaka to cool for 20 minutes before attempting to cut into servings. The longer your moussaka cools, the easier it will be to cut into Diner Style squares.