Category Archives: moussaka

Moussaka Please

Somehow high sky, crickets (this summer we also have an abnormal amount of cicadas in Quebec) and crisp August nights remind me of my Mediterranean travels and always put me in the mood to make a good, hearty Moussaka. It has been a year since I made it last time and promised the guy named Alex to post it, so here I am re-creating the Greek version of it, only a year after. Sorry for the delay, Alex, time is a rubber band in the Greek terms and I hope you will still enjoy making it.
There are zillions of different recipes/ingredients of Moussaka (this dish is not just Greek, but an Eastern Mediterranean staple): with or without meat, potatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, béchamel or yogurt sauce, etc. Ultimately, it’s a combination of: layer/layers of the correctly spiced and cooked meat sauce (lamb or beef); layer/layers of either eggplants, or potatoes, or both (sometimes zucchinis are there too); cheese and béchamel, or yogurt sauce topping. There’s been a debate in blogs and forums as to the sauce. Apparently, it is a shame in orthodox Greek tradition to replace classic sauce béchamel with yogurt/eggs/cheese mix. But I’ve seen dozens of great recipes in favor of yogurt mix, especially when it comes to gluten free recipes. Anyways, since ’’tous les gouts sont permis’’ (all tastes are allowed) in North America (otherwise Rachel Ray would not be a celebrity chef), I will let you decide whichever you prefer and will give you both, béchamel and gluten free versions. 
Photo credit Greece: Philippe Theonas
My version is a tribute to Naxos Island, a famous Greek land of potatoes (and many other good things), so, obviously, this Moussaka has potatoes in it. 
Contrary to our ‘’you slow you blow’’ mentality, Greek people know that ‘’anything goes’’ and are never in a hurry. Their cuisine reflects this and is simple in its core: you just have to have a FRESH INGREDIENT to it, be it a cucumber, yogurt or a ground meat. And, of course, spices and herbs like oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc. And a good splash of wine in everything you cook.
My family knows already that making moussaka heralds series of all kind of Greek meze in our kitchen. This time, having had my own share of what is called ‘’I hate reboots’’ period, I was happy to indulge myself in making a whole bunch of the Greek treats like wine wrapped sardines, rice & meat balls, eggplant spread, fish fillet in tahini sauce, almond cookies, all kind of salads, etc. Some of which I will certainly post next. 
Photo credit Greece: Philippe Theonas
So lets’s further on to our Greek moussaka, and then bring it out and eat it outside having a panoramic view of the sea and the waves lapping pebbles at our feet (in our minds). Or just bring it in and watch the immortal ‘’Zorba the Greek’’ while having it and let the time stand still. Cheers! 
Photo credit Greece: Philippe Theonas

Ingredients & Instructions:

Vegetables & Cheese:
2 large globe eggplants (or 4 Japanese or white eggplants), sliced
3-4 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
olive oil
1 cup Kefalotiri or Myzithra cheese, grated (Parmesan or similar sharp cheese is often used in North America as a replacement)

I. Vegetables & Layers:

Slice the eggplants, salt them sparingly and let sit for about 15 minutes. Drain from liquid, pat dry and dispose on the baking sheet in one layer. Brush with olive oil and grill/broil lined in one layer for about 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Peel and slice the potatoes (1/4 inch thick) and either boil them for 4 minutes and drain, or fry/broil them in oil for 5-8 minutes until golden, but still slightly undercooked. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Layer a casserole with potatoes, overlapping slightly (use half). Sprinkle with cheese. Top the potatoes with eggplant slices. Sprinkle with cheese. Layer a casserole with potatoes (use half). Cover with meat sauce (SEE BELOW). Repeat the layers or until the ingredients last. Sprinkle each layer with cheese. Ladle the sauce béchamel (SEE BELOW) to cover the final layer and sprinkle with cheese on top.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Let cool for at least 15 minutes for the juices and flavors to set up.

II. Meat Sauce:

1 lb ground lamb or beef (if you want to turn it into Beef Moussaka)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon allspice, freshly ground
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup tomatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup red or white wine (or organic apple cider vinegar mixed with water half & half)
1 bay leaf
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and brown the ground meat. Add onions, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and black pepper. Mix well, add salt and cook for 7-10 minutes. Add wine, mix and bring the sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes or until liquid is almost evaporated. Set aside.

III. Sauce béchamel:

1 stick unsalted butter (or ½ cup or 114 grams or 4 oz)
4 cups milk
3 egg yolks
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
white pepper to taste 
salt to taste
Warm up the milk without letting it simmer. Remove from heat. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour over a gentle heat using a whisk until it turns slightly yellow and starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add milk little by little whisking gently, return to low heat until mixed well and sauce slightly boils and thickens. Add nutmeg and white pepper and mix well. Put the egg yolks in a separate bowl and whisk well. Slowly add sauce béchamel to the egg yolks, whisking all the time until the mixture is well mixed and bring back to the very low heat without letting boil. 

Note: For Gluten Free Yogurt Sauce equivalent: beat 3 eggs with a tablespoon of cornstarch (dissolved in a bit of cold water to prevent lumps). Add two cups of natural yogurt, ½ cup of shredded cheese, salt, white pepper, pinch of nutmeg and whisk well. Some recipes add 1 tablespoon of rice flour to the mix, but I find it optional.