A Greek classic of layered eggplant, potato, meat sauce and béchamel
Welcome to our first entry…again! We’re so happy that you are here.
When we were trying to decide which recipe to launch our website with, the decision was easy. We chose a meal which typically sends shivers of fear down the backs of Greeks and non-Greeks alike. The mighty moussaka! Often ridiculed for sounding like the excrement of wild deer, and feared for its many steps and delectable layers, moussaka truly is a celebratory meal, and we have a lot to celebrate! We hope you do too.
Although it can appear intimidating, we think you’ll discover that moussaka is actually quite straightforward to make. With some advance planning you can even whip this together during a weeknight, impressing your family (unless you house teenagers, in which case little you do will impress them) and delighting your co-workers when you pack some up for lunch the next day.
As with most meals, there are several variations of moussaka out there. Some recipes include cheese in the béchamel sauce, others add zucchini to the more traditional eggplant-only layer. Our parents’ moussaka has it’s own twist. If you regularly visit our page (and we really, really hope that you do), you’ll notice that our parents very rarely use butter. For them, olive oil is gold, and finds itself into most dishes. So, the béchamel sauce which forms the top layer of their moussaka is made with olive oil (crazy right!?).
They also use lactose free milk and broil the eggplants instead of frying them. This results in a light meal which does not leave you feeling heavy and bloated, but incredibly happy. It is, in fact, divine. So set aside a few hours, put on some Greek music and get ready to send your taste buds to Greece (or at least, to our house).
This recipe was made for an 11 x 14 inch baking pan, but moussaka is actually very versatile and very forgiving. If you have a smaller pan, don’t worry. You can easily half the recipe for a pan half the size. Otherwise, keep the quantities the same and you’ll either be faced with enough ingredients to make two smaller pans of moussaka, or you can toss any leftovers in the fridge and use them in other recipes. The ground meat can be the base for a pasta sauce, the eggplant can be used in sandwiches or chopped up in a salad, and the fried potatoes can be eaten with ketchup and a smile. As for the béchamel sauce, you can maybe use it to make some macaroni and cheese (this is very not Greek).
Our parents prepare their eggplant slices by broiling them. Be careful and keep a close watch. Ovens vary and you don’t want to burn the eggplants. If you’re a baker, not a broiler, no worries. Prepare the eggplant in exactly the same way, but instead of setting your oven to broil, bake the eggplant slices in a 350 degree oven. Just note that it will take the eggplant almost twice as long to cook this way.
This recipe calls for aged mizithra which is a hard crumbly cheese made with leftover whey from the production of other cheeses which is then combined with either sheep or goat milk. If you can’t find it, be a little bit sad, and then substitute grated parmesan or romano cheese.
The various layers of moussaka (except for the béchamel ) can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for a day or two. This will make baking your dinner a breeze.
- Meat mixture
- 1 medium onion
- 2 pounds ground meat (our parents use a mixture of veal and lamb – but pork can also be used)
- 3/4 cup tomato sauce (homemade is best but if you are not into canning and preserving tomatoes, use a good quality strained tomato sauce)
- 3 /4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tbs salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp pepper Potatoes
- 12 medium size potatoes
- vegetable oil for frying Eggplants
- 7 medium sized eggplants
- 1 tsp salt
- olive oil for brushing onto eggplant Béchamel Sauce
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 liters of milk (our parents use 2% lactose free milk)
- 7 eggs (beaten)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup mizithra (or grated parmesan or romano cheese)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
- Meat mixture
- In a medium sized saucepan fry the finely diced onion in the olive oil until the onion is soft and slightly caramelized.
- Add your ground meat to the pot, breaking it apart so that you don’t have clumps of meat sticking together.
- Add the tomato sauce, water, salt, cinnamon and pepper and cook over medium heat, covered, for one hour.
- Check your pot frequently and stir your meat mixture. If it appears to be drying out, simply add more tomato sauce or water. When the hour is done, taste and adjust seasoning if required. Set aside. Potatoes
- Peel and slice your potatoes into rounds, about 1/4 inch thick. If you have a mandolin, this would be a good time to use it…otherwise use a knife (and be careful!).
- Soak your potatoes in cold water for approximately 10 minutes. Drain and salt the potatoes.
- Place approximately 1 inch of vegetable oil into a frying pan and fry the potato rounds in batches. (You can check if your oil is ready by dropping in one sacrificial potato slice and waiting for it to start frying.)
- Fry the potatoes until they are golden brown on both sides and then drain them on paper towels. Eggplant
- Turn your oven on to broil.
- Slice eggplants lengthwise (maybe you should get a mandolin) and soak them in cold water for approximately 10 minutes.
- Drain eggplant slices and salt them evenly using 1 tsp salt.
- Line your baking tray with parchment paper. Place eggplant slices on tray, being careful not to overlap the slices.
- Brush top side with olive oil and broil for 5 – 10 minutes. Flip eggplant slices over, brush top side with olive oil and return to broil for another 5 – 10 minutes.You will have to repeat this step several times in order to cook all your eggplant. Set aside. Béchamel sauce
- Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over high heat.
- Add flour and mix continuously so that flour does not burn and cook for approximately 2 to 3 minutes. You don’t want your flour to brown.
- Slowly add 2 liters of milk and then slowly stream in 7 beaten eggs. You must stir this mixture constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk.
- Add 1 tsp salt.
- Cook béchamel sauce for about 10 minutes, until it has thickened but is still easily poured. You can tell if your sauce is ready if it coats a wooden spoon and you can draw a line across it with your finger. Assembly
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pour any juices from the meat mixture into bottom of a 11 x 14 inch pan. If there are no juices, oil the bottom of the pan slightly with some olive oil.
- Layer the fried potato slices on the bottom of pan. It is fine if they overlap.
- On top of potatoes layer meat mixture using a slotted spoon to drain off any excess liquid.
- Sprinkle meat with a light dusting of nutmeg.
- Layer the eggplant slices on top of meat.
- Add crumbled feta cheese over eggplant (optional)
- Pour béchamel sauce over eggplant, spreading it evenly so that all eggplant is covered.
- Sprinkle the béchamel with breadcrumbs and mizithra. Bake for 40 minutes until heated through and top is golden brown. Enjoy.