Tuesday, 17 August 2010

MOUSSAKA


I think every tourist who visits Greece tastes a dish of moussaka. It's a popular Greek summer dish made with layers of eggplant and ground meat which are topped with a bechamel sauce. This recipe is my adaptation of Craig Claiborne's "Moussaka a la Greque" from the New York Time's Cook Book (© 1961). It's one of my favourite versions of moussaka to make because of its bechamel sauce, which is absolutely delicious. Moussaka can be prepared in advance and served lukewarm or at room temperature, making it ideal to serve for buffets. 


Ingredients:

4 medium eggplants
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef
14 oz can of tomatoes
1 cup broth
1 cup of chopped parsley, divided in half
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, or double the amount if using fresh
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the bechamel:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-quart whole milk, heated
2 eggs, beaten
Tiny pinch cinnamon (optional)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:
  • Wash the eggplant and cut off both ends. With a vegetable peeler remove 1/2-inch strips of skin from the eggplant. The end result will be that your eggplant will have a striped appearance, showing stripes of purple skin and white flesh.
  • Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds. Season with salt and pepper on both sides and let drain for 30 minutes. Rinse and dry.
  • Bake the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with some vegetable oil and place them on a parchment covered baking sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper and bake until the eggplant is soft, about 15 minutes. Many recipes call for the eggplant to be fried, but I think baking is a healthier way to go. Even the flavour is better. No heavy oily eggplant. Keep an eye on your eggplant while it's baking. You don't want to overcook it. Baking time depends on the variety of eggplant used. 
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft.
  • Add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. 
  • Combine the tomato with the broth, oregano, marjoram, and 1/2 cup of chopped parsley. 
  • Add the tomato mixture to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and simmer over low heat, stirring often, until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat.
  • Make the bechamel: in a saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk for about two minutes. Turn up the heat to moderate and add the heated milk in a slow stream, whisking all the while.
  • Keep stirring as the sauce simmers. Within about five minutes the mixture should be thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from the heat.  
  • Cool slightly and stir in the eggs, the pinch of cinnamon if using, and the feta and ricotta cheeses.
  • Grease an 11 by 16-inch pan and sprinkle the bottom with breadcrumbs. Arrange alternating layers of eggplant and meat sauce in the pan, sprinkling each layer with grated Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and the parsley.
  • Pour the white sauce over the top, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for one hour in a preheated 350°F/180°C oven until the top is golden.
  • Let cool twenty minutes before slicing.