Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

I don’t know how other bloggers do it. When I make a good meal, the last thing on my mind is taking photos and writing about it. By the time I’m done cooking, I’m ready to sit down with my guy and eat, not take photos. But every now and then I feel the call of the blog, whip the phone out and take a crappy photo. My motivation: I get lots of great ideas from other cooking blogs, so someone out there might get a great idea from mine.

What do you do while you’re cooking? If Chopped is on, I like watching that. But usually I’m making a protein, veg and side, and sometimes it can get a little crazy trying to get them all ready at once. I’m stirring and chopping and I hear Ted say, “Two minutes!” All of a sudden, I’m in turbo mode.

And then, I’m done. Already? I’ve got time to spare. I feel like I was just involved in some kind of athletic event. Am I sweating? It’s time for a glass of wine. I stand there sipping, leaning against the counter, and feel victorious. Because I just cooked a five star meal.

That happens to you too, right?

Here’s one of those five star meals. I know ground lamb is pricey, but this dish will last a few meals so it works out. I made this for Sunday dinner, we had it again Tuesday, and there was plenty left over for lunches too. Now that I sit here thinking about it in retrospect, I bet spinach would be a fantastic addition to this dish. Next time, I’m adding it.

This dish does take time – about 2-1/2 hours if it’s a lazy Sunday and you’re not watching Chopped. I broke up the recipe below so the ingredients are listed just above their part of the preparation. 

Wait for a cold day, and take the time to make this. It’s not much to look at (photographer’s fault) but it’s sooooo good. The meat sauce is incredibly flavorful and the bechamel on top puffs up, thanks to those egg yolks, into something like a light custard. Opa!

Moussaka

Lamb and Eggplant Moussaka from Grabbing the Gusto

Lamb and Eggplant Moussaka from Grabbing the Gusto

You’ll need a small bowl, 6-1/2-quart pot or Dutch oven, strainer, two sheet pans, 2-quart saucepan, whisk, and a 3-quart baking dish.

Allow 2-1/2 hours to prep/cook.

  • 1⁄4 cup dried currants

Preheat oven to 400. Put currants into a small bowl and cover with boiling water; let soften for 30 minutes. Drain currants and set aside.

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored, and finely chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes 

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, salt and pepper and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer lamb to a large strainer set over a bowl and drain; discard any liquid left in the pot.

Return pot to the heat and add the remaining olive oil along with the garlic, onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, 10-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, currants and lamb and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set meat sauce aside.

  • Cooking spray
  • 1-1⁄2 pounds eggplant, cut crosswise into 1⁄4″-thick slices
  • 1 large russet potato (about 1 lb.), cut crosswise into 1⁄4″-thick slices

Spray two sheet pans with cooking spray. Spread the eggplant and potato slices on the pans and spray the tops with cooking spray. Roast until tender, turning over after about 10 minutes.

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter and/or margarine
  • 1⁄2 cup flour
  • 2-1⁄4 cups milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Make a béchamel sauce: Melt butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until pale and smooth, 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, add the milk in a steady stream until incorporated; add the bay leaf and cook, whisking often, until reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and discard the bay leaf. Let sauce cool for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and egg yolks, temper it with some of the bechamel and then whisk it into the sauce until smooth.

Reheat oven to 400. Place the reserved potato slices in the bottom of an oval 3-qt. baking dish (or two 1 1⁄2-qt. baking dishes) and season with salt and pepper. Put the eggplant slices on top, season with salt and pepper, and then cover with the meat sauce. Pour the béchamel over the top of the meat sauce and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over the top and bake until browned and bubbly, 35-45 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.  

Original recipe: Moussaka, Saveur 

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8 thoughts on “Moussaka

  1. Leslie says:

    Yum! Have not had moussaka in years! Will have to try this recipe. Next weekend, of course. Love th currants, have not used that in moussaka before but it sounds great!

    1. deirdrereid says:

      I hadn’t made moussaka since I lived in Arlington, so at least since 2004, but this recipe on Saveur spoke to me. I looked at a bunch of others but this one had the most promising ingredients and comments. I hope yours turns out great!

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