Moussaka is a very easy to dish to prepare, but like lasagna, it does involve multiple steps. The nice thing about an oven dish like this is that you can get just about all of your cleanup done ahead of time, consequently, it's a good choice for a relaxed dinner with family and friends. Try serving it with our Classic Skordalia as an appetizer and a green salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette.
- For the eggplant:
- 3 medium eggplant, about 2-1/2 lbs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- For the meat mixture:
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1-1/2 cups onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the bechamel sauce:
- 3 cups milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 whole allspice berries
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoon flour
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray. Peel and slice the eggplant into 3/8-inch thick rounds. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets, brush the tops with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the eggplant is barely tender. Keep an eye on it - you don't want it getting too soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the eggplant is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the ground lamb and cook, stirring frequently until well browned. Break up any large chunks of meat and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan along with the onion, celery and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the allspice, cinnamon, oregano, salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Combine well, and cook for an additional 1 minute. Stir in the red wine and tomato paste, then return the lamb to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until the wine has mellowed and the flavors are blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.
While the meat mixture simmers, make the bechamel sauce. Place the milk, bay leaf and allspice berries in a small saucepan over low heat and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan. Whisk in the flour and blend until smooth. Continue cooking until the mixture turns a rich golden color, about 5 minutes. Remove the allspice and bay leaf from the hot milk and add it slowly to the flour mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for another 6 or 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beaten egg, parmesan cheese and nutmeg, whisking lightly until well blended.
To assemble the moussaka, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 13 x 9 x 2-inch casserole thoroughly with nonstick spray. Arrange a layer of eggplant slices to cover the bottom. Spread about 1/2 of the meat mixture on top and cover with another layer of eggplant. Spread the remaining meat mixture over that and finish with the remaining eggplant. Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the entire dish, using a spatula to smooth it if necessary. Cover loosely with foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for another 15 minutes until the top develops a golden brown color. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting.
Makes 8 servings
We like to partially cook the eggplant prior to assembling the moussaka to make sure that it doesn't give off too much liquid in the final dish. Also, we use ground lamb whenever possible, but if you don't care for lamb or can't find it, ground pork, chicken or beef will work out just fine.
This dish reheats well and can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It can be frozen, but it's not something we recommend as the dish tends to get a little watery when it defrosts.