Moussaka – or – Learning to Love Leftover Leg of Lamb
Cooking a moussaka is a labor of love. This is going to take about 2 hours and maybe more if you aren’t comfortable with the processes…. but it is a relatively easy dish, there is just a lot to be done.
Leftover Leg’o Lamb – there was about 2lbs. of meat on this bad boy.
1 Big Ol’Eggplant (I’m just gonna rock 1 layer of eggplant on this, feel free to add more eggplants and layers if you like eggplant more than I do.)
2-3 Large Potatoes (or more lesser potatoes)
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp of cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
1 cup of red wine
1 big can of tomatoes (diced or chopped is best, but even whole will work)
2 Tbsp of tomato paste
Few sprigs of flat leaf Parsley (if you’re using dry a tsp or two)
Salt n Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp of Ketchup (yea yea yea, ketchup… if ketchup insults your sensibilities a pinch of sugar or couple of drop of honey will do).
4 egg white (use the yolk for the white sauce below)
2 Cups of bread crumbs (I used Panko bread crumbs, but regular is fine)
1 cup Flour
White Sauce – (for the topping)
1 stick of unsalted butter
½ cup of Flour
2 cups of Milk (whole is best, but lowfat works)
4 egg yolks
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
I start with microwaving the potatoes. You can’t go wrong with twice cooked potatoes, and the microwave is easier to deal with than boiling or baking. About 3 minutes a spud or so… you can boil’m or bake’m or just go from raw and let’m cook in the moussaka if you think microwaves are a strange and evil technology. Get’m done early and let them cool before you have to slice them.
Next up is salting the eggplant to remove the bitterness. Peel the eggplant… you can leave strips of skin running down the side if you like or peel it at all. Cut the eggplant into about ½inch slices… they shrink a good bit on cooking so error on the larger side. Salt down both sides of the slices and place on a paper towel lined cookie sheet or cutting board. Place some more paper towels on top and add another cookie sheet or cutting board with a weight on top. Eggplant puts out a lot of water so double or triple layer your towels. These are gonna need to sit for about a ½ hour.
I’m using a leftover leg of lamb, so I don’t need to brown the meat… instead I need to grind it. If you’re going from raw meat start with browning it… you don’t want to overcook the meat, just start the cooking process and rend off some of the fat. Make sure you heat your pan, and cook your meat 5~8 mins… you gotta use your judgment here.
Ok so if you cooked meat from raw set it aside once browned and discard most the excess fat. Use the same pan with a bit of the fat to start the moussaka tomato base.
Dice your onion and press your garlic… start by adding onions to pan and getting them cooking. If you had excess fat use it or just add a tbsp or two of cooking oil. A shake or two of salt with the onions will help them sweat and keep them from burning by stirring constantly Cook the onions for 5 or 8 minutes till they’re nice and translucent, add the garlic a minute or two before the onions are done.
Once the onions and garlic are deemed done add the tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup, cinnamon and allspice. I’ll let this simmer away while dealing with the next few steps. Be sure to stir occasionally and add wine after 10 mins…. any time the pan looks dry or if you are taking longer than expected just add a bit more wine to keep the sauce lively. You wanna cook the sauce a good 20 minutes. Add the Parsley towards the end and add salt and pepper as needed.
Back to the eggplant! Start your oven up to a good 375 degrees (I use a convection oven on roast… you may want to adjust the temperature based on your own oven/experience). Lightly oil a cookie sheet and set up three bowls for breading… one with the egg whites, one with the flour and one with the bread crumbs. Dip in the flour then egg whites and finally bread crumbs and place on cookie sheet. I drizzle a bit of oil on the top of the eggplant to help’m get that lovely golden color. Cook 10 and flip and cook another 5 or so minutes.
While the eggplant is cooking, mix the lamb and tomato base and cut your potatoes into ¼ inch or so slices.
White Sauce time.
Start up with a sauce pan on medium heat and add your butter. The trick here is not to burn your butter… I lift the pan off the heat from time to time if I think things are getting too hot. once the butter starts to liquefy add the flour. You need to cook out the flour for about 2 to 3 minutes… again you don’t want anything to burn or even brown too hard. Go to a low heat if needed. Once that’s done add the milk… I add it in a steady slow stream whisking the whole time so the flour doesn’t seize up. The sauce should be fairly thick once you’re done adding the milk. Add the egg yolks one at a time whisking as you go. Add the salt/nutmeg and taste to make sure everythings happy.
Moussaka Assemble! I used a 16” skillet that’s oven safe to cook mine… I’d think a 9×12 pan or so would accommodate this recipe nicely. Start the layering with the eggplant, than potatoes, next up is the meat sauce and cover it up with the white sauce. Put that bad boy in the oven at about 325 degrees (again my oven is convection if yours isn’t go up to 350) and cook till the white sauce gets that lovely golden color… about 45 minutes. Let rest at least 30 minutes before serving.