Lamb and Eggplant Moussaka
Making moussaka is something of an undertaking—a rich meat sauce (made here with lamb, but you can substitute other ground meats such as turkey, veal, or even pork, if you prefer), layered with tender eggplant and a cheese sauce. You can make the moussaka in two smaller casserole dishes to serve one now and freeze one to bake later.
• 3 lb eggplant (2 large or 3 medium)
• 2 large russet potatoes
• Salt as needed
• 1/3 cup olive oil, or as needed
• 2 cups diced onion
• 1 1/4 lb ground lamb (or substitute beef, turkey, pork, or combination)
• 2 cups chopped plum tomatoes
• 2 tsp minced garlic
• 2 cloves
• Small piece cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
• 1 bay leaf
• Pinch ground allspice
• Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
• 1/2 cup water
• 2 tbsp tomato paste
• 1/4 cup dry red wine
• 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
• 2 cups Cheese Sauce
• 5 tbsp butter
• 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
• 2 1/2 cups milk
• Few grains of nutmeg
• Salt as needed
• Freshly ground black pepper as needed
• 2 egg yolks
• 1/2 cup grated kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese
1. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk, working out any lumps that form. Bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 30 minutes.
2. Remove the sauce from the heat and add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Whisk the egg yolks in a small boil and add a bit of the hot sauce to the yolks. Blend well, and return the yolk mixture to the rest of the béchamel. Stir in the cheese and blend well. Keep warm while preparing the moussaka.
1. Peel, salt, and rinse the eggplant if desired (see note "Preparing Eggplant for Cooking" below).
2. Place potatoes in a pot and add enough water to cover them. Over medium-high heat bring them to a boil and boil lightly for 5 minutes. Cool, cut into 1/8-inch slices, and set aside.
3. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the eggplant to the hot oil a few slices at a time and sautéthe eggplant slices, turning as necessary, until tender and lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a rack to drain while you sauté the remaining eggplant, adding more oil to the skillet as necessary.
4. To prepare a meat sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the ground meat and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the meat loses its raw appearance, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, allspice, salt, pepper, and about 1/2 cup water. Simmer until thick and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Add the tomato paste and red wine and continue simmering until the wine has developed a sweet aroma, about 10 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
6. To assemble the moussaka: Scatter the bread crumbs in a deep, rectangular baking dish. Place a layer of half of the eggplant slices over the bread crumbs. Add the meat sauce and spread it into an even layer. Place an even layer of sliced potatoes over the sauce. Add the remaining eggplant in an even layer over the meat sauce. Pour the cheese sauce over the eggplant. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese sauce is thick and golden brown and the eggplant is very tender, about 45 minutes. Let the moussaka rest for about 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
Preparing Eggplant for cooking: Many recipes instruct you to salt eggplant before you cook it. Some say this step is necessary because it draws out any bitterness in the eggplant. We think it's a good idea, even if the eggplant isn't large or bitter. Drawing out some of the moisture in eggplant collapses the vegetable a little, so it doesn't act as much like a sponge for oil when you fry it.
Peel the eggplant if you wish and slice the eggplant to the required thickness. Place the slices in a colander and put the colander in a large bowl. Sprinkle the slices liberally with kosher salt and let them rest until the salt begins to draw moisture to the surface, about 20 minutes. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly, let drain, and blot dry.