What is it? Good question. It's basically lasagna made with eggplant in place of the pasta and a white sauce that replaces the ricotta cheese. That's my description. It was so good, though, that we had to find a recipe and make it for ourselves...and for all of you. We used the recipe on www.premiersystems.com because it seemed the least complicated. And you'll see that it's still pretty complicated. This is NOT a weeknight dinner. Unless you have an extra 3 hours. It took us over an hour to prepare the dish and then another hour to bake it. And clean-up time. But it's worth it. Trust us. On to the recipe.
|A slice of Moussaka and a little bruschetta.|
- 3 medium eggplant
- White Sauce:
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 6 Tbsp flour
- 3 cups milk
- 3 eggs
- dash nutmeg
- splash hot sauce
- Red / Meat Sauce
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 - 1.5 lbs beef or lamb
- large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 8 oz. canned tomato sauce
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried leaf oregano
- 1 Tbsp chpped parsley
- 1 Tbsp chopped mint
- dash salt and pepper
- 1 cup coarse dry bread crumbs
- 2 cups Mozzarella or other white cooking cheese
- 1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
This recipe is in a few steps, and they can overlap a bit. I'd recommend reading through the steps and then recruiting a friend to help you, dividing the tasks between the two of you.
First, cut the eggplant in thin slices. How thin is really up to you. The website recommends 2/3 of an inch, but that's thicker than Sara prefers. Mike split the different between what was recommended and what Sara wanted and went with about a 1/4 inch slices. If you like them thinner or want a faster way to cut them, a decent mandolin slicer will do just fine. If you cut the eggplant really thinly, you may want to put it down in multiple layers, but we'll get to that later. The eggplant should then be salted and let to dry or drain while you work on the white sauce. We placed the slices on paper towels and that seemed to work pretty well.
The white sauce. Start with the butter and flour in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Wisk those together until they're well mixed, then stir in the milk. Bring this milk mixture to a boil gently and let it simmer for a minute or so. While waiting for the mixture to boil, beat the 3 eggs really well. Once the milk mixture is boiling, take one cup of it and mix it into the beaten eggs. Then combine the two mixtures in the sauce pan and wisk into a thick sauce while simmering. Do not let it boil or the eggs will scramble out. I would recommend turning the heat down to medium-low and even lift the sauce pan off of the burner every once in a while to control the heat. I'd estimate you'll be wisking for about 3-4 minutes, so be sure to stretch first. While wisking, be sure to scrape the bottom every so often to get anything that might be sticking to the bottom. Once the sauce is nice and thick, add in the nutmeg and hot sauce and set aside to let it cool.
Start the red / meat sauce by heating the oil in a large, heavy skillet or frying pan and adding the meat. We only used 1 lb of meat, and it worked out fine. It's up to you how much you want to use. Brown the meat well through and drain the grease. Then add the onion and garlic and saute with the meat until the onion is transparent and limp. The smaller you chop, the faster it cooks. Then add the tomato sauce through the salt and pepper. We didn't use fresh ingredients this time, primarily because Sara is...frugal. But we can imagine how much better this would be with fresh herbs, as recommended in the recipe. Simmer the sauce until it's nice and thick.
Now's a good time to note that both of these sauces can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them.
Now it's time to prepare the eggplant. Take the now dry and drained eggplant (having been left on the paper towels for about a half hour) and coat each slice with flour and a bit of pepper. Then brown each slice in a frying pan (we just quickly cleaned out the same pan in which we had just cooked the meat sauce). This is kind of tricky. Eggplant is really absorbent, so watch how much oil you put in the pan when you're trying to brown it. Too much oil will result in greasy eggplant, too little may mean it takes a little longer to brown than you'd like, if it really browns at all. We erred on the low side because we don't like greasy stuff.
Once the eggplant is browned, it's finally time to build your casserole and bake that bad boy. Don't forget to preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a 13" x 9" dish suitable for use in the oven, line the bottom of the pan with eggplant, trimming the slices to cover the entire bottom. You should use about 1/3 of the eggplant with each layer. Layer with 1/2 of the meat sauce. On top of the meat, spread 1/3 of the white sauce. It may seem difficult to spread because it's really thick and you're trying to spread it over a loose sauce, so just do your best. It'll all work out in the end. After the white sauce, sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella (you could also combine the mozzarella and parmesan, if you'd like) and 1/3 cup of bread crumbs. Lay down another layer of eggplant and repeat the other layers as listed. Top again with eggplant, the rest of the white sauce and cover with the remaining bread crumbs. While we did not try this, you could sprinkle some paprika, red chile and / or fresh parsley on top of the dish before covering with foil and placing into the oven. Bake for 1 hour, then remove the cover and let it continue to bake until the top is browned and bubbling (could be about 15 mins, so don't call folks to the table until you are ready to take it out of the oven, and consider waiting a little while after you take it out to let it cool off a bit; remember that eggplant contains a lot of water naturally, so it's going to retain heat pretty well).
We'd recommend serving it with a nice red wine and probably a green salad, perhaps a Greek salad with some feta and olives? If you give this a try, let us know what you did differently than above and be sure to send us pictures! Enjoy!