Sunday, January 22, 2006

Moussaka -- Re-cooked

(Without the Moose or the Mouse)

This was the very first recipe posting I made to The Redneck Gourmet back in November of 2004. I have cooked this Greek eggplant standard—Moussaka—a half dozen times since and through experimentation I’ve learned what to do, and by default—what not to do. I believe that I have it figgured out.

I cooked another 9x13 casserole dish full for dinner last night, and it was excellent, if I do say so myself. I will reiterate my opinion that the key to this dish, in addition to good basic ingredients, is that you must get the spice mixture right to make it taste like “Greek” Moussaka.

You don’t want to end up cooking a dish of something that tastes like Italian eggplant lasagna, YOU WANT TO COOK GREEK MOUSSAKA!

So without further fanfare, on to the ingredients:

3 small eggplants
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely sliced
1 cup button mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, diced fine
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ pint sherry

3/4 LB Chopped Lamb
1/2 LB lean ground beef

1 can (8 oz) pureed tomatoes
1 can (8oz) diced tomatoes

½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp red pepper
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt

1 cup un-seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup crumbled Feta Cheese

For the B├ęchamel Sauce Topping:

4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp flour
1-1/4 cup scalded milk
2 eggs
1/8 tsp red pepper
¼ tsp salt

It looks like a lot of ingredients, doesn’t it?

Well...don’t get all nervous and scared, here is what you need to do—just take it one step at a time:

First, peal and slice the eggplant into 1/8” pieces. Now soak the eggplant in cold salted ice water for at least one hour--Mine soaked for about three, and you can change the water once if you want to.

Redneck Tip: Weight the eggplant slices with a couple of saucers or plates (whatever will fit in your water bowl) to ensure that all of the slices stay submerged under the water.

Peal and cut your carrot into thin slices.

For the meat sauce, in a large deep skillet or sauce pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and add the diced onion. Cook your onion until it is clear, then add your garlic and cook, stirring regularly.

Redneck Tip: Don’t burn your garlic or you’ll have to start over.

Add the chopped lamb and ground beef and cook it all until it is browned. Tilt your skillet over and spoon out as much grease as you want. I use a turkey baster for this task.

Next add the tomato puree and diced tomatoes, carrots, and mushrooms, along with the allspice, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, salt and red pepper.

Add the ¼ pint of sherry and enough water or beef stock to thin it out a little (I used about a cup of water this time.)

Redneck Tip: Don’t attempt to do the rest of the ½ pint bottle of Sherry as a shot. You’ll end up burning up your Moussaka and dancing by yourself while watching TV and eating a bag of corn chips for dinner.

Bring your meat sauce to a nice simmer, and cook for 20 minutes or so until it is reduced to a nice consistency. You want it to still be juicy, but not really runny.

Meanwhile, back to that delicious eggplant. Pour off the water through a colander.

Redneck tip: Remove the weights first, duuh…

Turn all of the eggplant pieces up on edge in the colander and separate them as you can so that all of the water drains out. You don’t want soggy eggplant for the next step.

Redneck Tip: Guys, you might want to put on a shirt when you start frying the eggplant, particularly if it is wet, because it will pop a good deal and you risk burning your beer belly if you stand too close to the skillet (Ladies, I assume you were already wearing a shirt.)

Fry the eggplant slices in a skillet in about ¼” of vegetable oil over medium heat until tender. Drain the slices, once they are cooked, on lots of paper towels. Don’t skimp on the paper towels, you want to get as much grease out of the eggplant as is possible.

The Bechamel sauce is made as follows. Pay attention…

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium low heat. Now add your flour, a tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly. In another small pot, scald your milk, then turn down the heat and keep warm.

Redneck tip: For all of you Cajuns out there, we’re making a roux.

Keep adding the flour a little bit at a time until the roux is thick, but don’t cook it until it is brown. Add the warm milk a little at a time, again stirring constantly with a whisk. After the milk is added, bring the whole thing to a low boil and cook until it thickens to the consistency of a medium gravy. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

In a separate bowl (or a coffee cup), beat the eggs until smooth. Slowly add a little of the cooled sauce to the eggs so as to not “scramble them.” Add the warmed egg/sauce mixture to the balance of the sauce, add the red pepper, cinnamon, and salt to taste. Turn off heat and continue to stir to blend.

Putting it all together:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle a few tablespoons of bread crumbs into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.

Layer one half of the eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Pour half of the meat sauce mixture on top of the eggplant and smooth it out evenly.

Layer the rest of the eggplant slices and sprinkle with another couple of tablespoons of bread crumbs, half of the grated parmesan cheese and all of the Feta cheese. Add the balance of the meat sauce mixture and smooth out evenly. Sprinkle with the rest of the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.

Pour the Bechamel sauce over the top of the dish and smooth it out nice and evenly.

Be patient...you're on the home stretch now…place your finished dish of Moussaka into the 350 degree oven and cook it for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

After it's done like you like, you'll have to wait to allow the Moussaka to cool and rest for 15 minutes, then slice it into squares, and serve with your favorite red wine and bread.

Now grab yourself a fork and napkin, sit down at your dinner table or in the floor at the coffee table in front of the TV and EAT!

Enjoy Y’all,

The Redneck Gourmet

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