There are probably almost as many ways to pronounce this as there are versions of this delightful and delectable Greek dish. Some say: Moo-sah-kah; Mus-ah-ka; Mus-‘ka; and more and more. But however you say it, it is one of Greece’s most famous food contributions (along with Retsina, pastisio, baklava, and a few more).
Many years ago, a group of friends and I decided to do a series of what we naively called “International” dinners as each of us was of a different ethnic or geographic background and we thought it would be fun to taste – and learn about – the foods each of us grew up with. (As an aside, one of those was the friend who introduced me to Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy that I recently blogged about.)
One of the gals was Greek and she said she’d make Moussaka – and it was a 3 day process! We were all impressed (as her husband rolled his eyes). She had us all over and the food was fantastic. She started out with Dolmas – lamb and rice stuffed fig leaves; hummus with pita; baba ghanoush; Moussaka – of course – was the entrée and for dessert, baklava. We had wine and she even had a bottle of Retsina that we tasted. I don’t think I’ll ever drink it again but I did try it! It really DOES taste like resin! YUCK!
I told her afterwards that I just HAD to learn how to make these wonderful things and so she said next time she planned to make it, she’d have me come over for the weekend to learn how. She did, and I did.
When I returned home with recipe and notes galore, I said to myself, there has to be an easier way. Over the years, I have refined the recipe considerably so that it doesn’t take all day – much less 3 and it is a lot healthier the way I do it now than the way she did it, or the way I used to do it.
The thing to remember about making anything with eggplant is that it absorbs oil the way a dry sponge soaks up water! So – using olive oil non-stick spray is the answer to cutting the oil way down. You still need a little for the flavor but not nearly as much.
I do hope you like it – living alone, when I make this (and it makes enough for 6-8) I freeze it so I can enjoy it again and again.
- 8 – 9 slices eggplant (2 medium), sliced 1/4“ thick
- Olive oil non-stick spray (preferred but regular will work)
- Flour for dredging
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 c chopped onion
- 1/2 lb. ground lamb or ground chuck (ground turkey is OK but not as flavorful)
- 2/3 c tomato sauce
- 2 bay leaves, crumbled finely
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 c red wine
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
- ½ c chopped mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 c whole milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Using (preferably) olive oil non-stick spray, heavily spray a 13” x 9” casserole.
Soak eggplant in salted water for 20 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain, rinse and dry the slices well. Spray both sides of each eggplant slice with olive oil spray.
Combine flour, salt and pepper. Spray large fry pan or griddle with olive oil spray; add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and heat. Dredge sprayed eggplant with seasoned flour, shaking off excess and sauté over medium high heat until golden brown on each side. Remove each piece as it is done and set aside.
When all are finished, add 1 Tbsp. butter to a large pan and sauté the garlic and onion until golden; then add the ground meat. Stir and cook about 10 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until no “pink” shows. Add the tomato sauce, bay leaf, oregano, salt and pepper, wine and parsley and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is almost evaporated. In the original pan, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. of butter and sauté mushrooms until golden brown. Add mushrooms to the meat skillet.
Preheat oven to 400. Place 4 slices of eggplant in the bottom of the prepared casserole.
Spoon the meat mixture to completely cover the eggplant layer. Next, layer 4 more slices of eggplant on top of the meat mixture.
Prepare the béchamel sauce:
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a medium sized sauce pan. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk until a smooth paste results (the roux). Add the milk and continue to whisk until slightly thickened. In a cup containing the egg yolk, pour a little of the hot, milk sauce and blend well (tempering the egg). Add the tempered egg mixture back to the main body of the sauce. Stir it in; add the nutmeg, stir it in and heat but do not allow it to boil.
Gently ladle or pour the béchamel sauce over the casserole and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. The top will get a crisp, golden brown and you will probably see some bubbling on the sides if you are using a glass dish.
Let casserole cool 10 minutes before serving to allow it to set.
Serves 6 to 8.