Moussaka: My Big Fat Greek Casserole

No, this isn't a shepherd's pie. It's actually a little more like lasagna, without the pasta. Moussaka is a traditional Greek dish composed of layers of eggplant (and sometimes zucchini and potatoes), and a spiced meat sauce. The entire dish is topped with a creamy bechamel sauce. It's a bit prep intensive, but make a large batch of it and you will not mind having it several nights in a row. I hadn't realized that it would turn out so nicely so unfortunately, I made a pretty modest sized batch. I'd like to layer up the ingredients thicker the next time I make this.

I did a fairly thorough recipe search and the following recipe is an amalgamation of what I think are the best aspects of numerous other recipes, as well as my own edits.

A couple of notes on the bechamel sauce:
The nutmeg in it is amazing. Something about the spice plays so well with the milkiness of the sauce. Try it!
The whipped egg white is a bonus step (and is not crucial to the success of your moussaka). It makes the sauce souffle a little in the oven and brown better. It will collapse when you take it out of the oven, but the result is a creamy sauce that has a subtle "bubbliness" that I like.

It's a good idea to let the pan sit for a good 20-30 minutes after you take it out of the oven for two reasons: 1) The layers will set, making it easier to slice and keep its shape on the plate and, more importantly, 2) You won't burn your mouth off.


2 eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 cups canned tomato sauce

1/4 cup butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk, warmed on the stove or in a microwave
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 475F. Brush both sides of eggplant and zucchini slices with oil and season with salt. Place in a single layers on sheet pans and roast in the oven until browned and tender (about 7 minutes).

Meat Sauce:
In a large skillet over medium heat, saute chopped onion until soft and translucent. Add garlic and ground beef. Cook until beef is no longer pink. Add spices and saute 2 minutes longer until spices are fragrant. Add tomato sauce and simmer 20 minutes (or until the other layers' ingredients are assembled).
Bechamel Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat. Add flour and whisk to make a roux. Cook for 1 minute, then whisk in milk, salt and nutmeg. Cook over medium heat while whisking until thickened. Simmer while whisking for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Whisk egg whites until firm peaks. Stir egg yolks into cooled bechamel and fold in egg whites.

Heat oven to 400F. Grease a 9x13 inch dish. Arrange roasted eggplant in one layer on the bottom of the dish. Spread half the meat sauce over top. Arrange roasted zucchini over the meat sauce in one layer. Top with remaining meat sauce.
Pour bechamel over the top of all the layers. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese.
Bake moussaka until the top is puffed and brown, about 30 minutes.
Cool for 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Serves 6 hungry diners

Recipe and image property of beets and bites

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