greek moussaka

I love moussaka but I’ve only had good moussaka a handful of times in my life.  When I first moved to Moose Jaw, I tried the moussaka from the one Greek restaurant in town and it was absolutely terrible so I won’t be doing that to myself ever again.  I never attempted to make it myself because I knew it’d be quite a bit of work but I finally decided to give it a go and it was well worth it!  This one has layers of potato, eggplant, beef and béchamel.  So good!  Just know that this is a pretty time-consuming process; it’ll be at least a solid 3 hrs from the time you start to prep until the time you get to eat.  But it’s quite rewarding and turns out great so you should still give it a try when you have the time.

for the beef: ~ 750 grams lean ground beef  /  1 x 28 oz can whole tomatoes (preferably plum tomatoes but the shop was all out and regular ones worked out fine)  /  1 large yellow onion  /  3 cloves garlic  /  a few shakes of ground cinnamon  /  2 dried bay leaves  /  ~ 1 tsp dried oregano  / ~ 2 tsp chopped fresh sage  /  ~ 2 tsp dried rosemary  /  avocado or olive oil  /  (optional: a lot of recipes call for red wine but I skipped it because I didn’t wanna get stared down in the liquor store with my 8 months pregnant belly! but if you’d like, add in maybe 1/2 cup red wine of your choice)

4 medium white potatoes  /  2 large eggplants (i’ve only cooked eggplants a couple times so it’s not an ingredient i’m very familiar with.  the eggplants I got from Superstore seemed extremely big to me!  if you’ve got smaller ones, just know that you’ll need however many to make 2 layers in the moussaka)  /  salt and pepper

for the béchamel:  3 cups 2% milk (I used lactose-free milk to appease my selective lactose intolerance and it worked well! so that’s a good option if your belly hates milk like mine)  /  1/4 cup butter  /  1/3 cup all-purpose flour  /  2 large eggs  /  a few splashes of lemon juice  /  1 tsp ground nutmeg  /  2 dried bay leaves  /  pecorino cheese (to grate over top)

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Start off by chopping the onion and mincing the garlic.  In a large saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, fry up the beef, onion and garlic with a bit of oil until the beef is cooked through.  Add in the cinnamon, bay leaves, oregano, sage and rosemary and let it cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Then toss in the whole tin of tomatoes, liquid and all (and if you want to use wine, toss that in there now too).  After it comes to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer partially covered for about an hour.  When it’s ready, remove the bay leaves and season with some salt and pepper.

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In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350F and prepare the potatoes and the eggplants.  Slice up the eggplants lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Sprinkle with sea salt and let them sit over some paper towels for about 20 minutes.  I think this is to both draw out liquid from the eggplant and prevent them from sopping up too much oil when pan-frying.

While the eggplants are doing their thing, slice up the potatoes also lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices.  In a pot of boiling water, parboil them for about 5 minutes then layer them, slightly on top of one another, in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  Drizzle over some oil and season with salt and pepper and then toss into the oven to roast for 40 minutes.

In a frying pan over medium-heat, fry up the slices of eggplant in small batches with a bit of oil on both sides, just until a bit golden, about 2 minutes on each side.

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OK!  So that’s 3 of the layers done and finally it’s time for the béchamel.  In a large frying pan over low-medium heat, melt the butter and then whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste.  Then gradually, while whisking, add in the milk until it’s all combined.  Add in the nutmeg, bay leaves, and a bit of salt and pepper, and keep whisking over the heat for about 15 minutes.  I don’t know if it’s really necessary to continuously whisk it, but I was just worried the béchamel would burn.  When it’s done, remove the bay leaves and take off the heat (so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs when you add the eggs in!).  In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and the lemon juice and then slowly whisk into the béchamel.

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And it’s finally time to layer the moussaka.  The potatoes are already on the bottom so carefully spread over the potatoes roughly half of the beef.  Next place over top a layer of the eggplant.  Follow that up with the rest of the beef and then a final layer of eggplant.  Scoop and spread on top the béchamel and then finely grate over some pecorino cheese and drizzle with a bit of oil.  Put the whole thing in the oven to bake for 40 minutes.  But then it’s still not time to eat!  You have to let it sit for about 30 minutes or else apparently when you cut into it, the layers don’t stay set.  And THEN you get to eat! Enjoy!

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