This week's FNCCC chef is Cat Cora. She has a lot of Greek recipes so I was looking forward to trying one of them. Initially I'd planned on making something else, but the fates had other plans. I couldn't get a hold of the lamb meat I was after and the eggplants went on sale for 49 cents. It was like the world was telling me to just make moussaka already! So, I did.
Moussaka: Eggplant Casserole
Recipe courtesy Cat Cora
3 medium eggplants
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces olive oil (see my note below in the directions)
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, finely chopped
12 ounces ground beef
4 ounces dry white wine (reviews on the website indicated you could skip this)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 ounces water
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cinnamon (SMALL pinch... I think I over-pinched mine)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (I used skim evaporated milk)
Pinch nutmeg (I have a nutmeg grinder and I just did two twists)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces Kefalotyri cheese, grated, plus 4 ounces (Couldn't find this so I substituted percorino which is another variety of hard sheep's milk cheese. Also, I used about half the amount called for and I think it was plenty)
For the eggplant: Wash eggplant and cut off both ends. Peel 1/2-inch strips of peel from the eggplant, making stripes of skin. Slice crosswise into 1/3-inch rounds. Salt and pepper both sides and let stand for 30 minutes I have a post about sweating eggplants here, if you care to read it.) Rinse and dry. Heat the oil in a large saute pan, and fry the eggplant on both sides, until golden brown. Drain well on paper towels. (So SO SO much oil! I used less than half the oil called for and my eggplant was still greasy greasy. Next time, I'll just brush a little oil on each slice and roast in the oven for a little while.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (Unless your oven takes 45 minutes to warm up, wait until you're done with the next two steps to turn it on, seriously.)
For the Meat Filling: Heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beef and cook until brown, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and reduce until it is almost dry. Add in tomato paste, water, parsley, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Simmer for 30 minutes (this seemed like a really long time to simmer something that had next to no liquid in it, but I did it anyway... I'm not sure it's really necessary), remove from heat and cool.
For the bechamel: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Blend in the flour, and gradually stir in the milk. Cook, stirring, until thick and smooth. Add in the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cool. Add 4 ounces of cheese (I used less and it was still very good) and blend well.
For the assembly: Butter a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant and half of the meat mixture, alternately, until completely used. Cover with the bechamel sauce, and the remaining cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Remove to a rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Cut into 3-inch squares and serve warm.
The Verdict: We both thought this was a very tasty moussaka. It was really really time consuming though, so I'm not sure I'd put it on the normal rotation of recipes. Roasting the eggplant instead of frying would cut down the work to make it quite a lot I think. In other words, good recipe if you have a lot of time to spend making dinner!
Stay tuned next week for Claire Robinson who seems to have a ton of 5 ingredient or less recipes. YAY FOR SOMETHING SIMPLE! I'll still probably find a way to choose a hard convoluted one though so don't worry.