Sunday, December 6, 2015

Moussaka - December Secret Recipe Club

This time of year I have been all about comfort foods. It just so happened that when I was given my Secret Recipe Club assignment for December (back in early November) we still hadn't had a hard freeze here on the farm.

That means there were still a few items holding on, out in the fields...

You might remember that I featured eggplant in November. I was sure that was the last few days, and last few farm eggplant I would be able to enjoy. But then when I saw this recipe for Moussaka and saw we still has some gorgeous Italian style eggplant left, I was convinced.

But, let me back up a little...

It is December and time for another fabulous Secret Recipe Club find. This month I was assigned a completely new blog (to me!) My Hobbie Lobbie and immediately loved all her fun and diverse recipes. I love to make a wide variety of dishes, so this was a lot of fun.  I tracked down the name behind the blog, via her Party Supply Blog, so if I messed up on your name, Trisha, I apologize!

Well, out of all the Greek dishes I have made here, one I have never attempted was Moussaka. So, I didn't have to look far into Trisha's  extensive recipe list. I made two small changes to her recipe for my own family. Here in the state of Oregon, and especially the southern part of the state, we have an abundance of fresh, locally grown lamb. Though you can make this recipe with other ground meat, and Trisha mentioned in her post that she is not overly fond of lamb and instead used ground beef, I went with the lamb.

I also made the dish twice and the second time around opted to put in a potato layer. It helped hold our slices of Moussaka together, soaked up the extra flavor from the meat sauce and I just happened to have a cold room full of russets from down south. I always love new ways to enjoy potatoes. Some recipes use the layer, others do not, but my family really enjoyed the potato base.

What is Moussaka, you ask?

It is an eggplant and ground meat casserole, kind of like a Greek lasagna. Whether you have a layer of potato or not varies by the recipe, but they all are topped in a beautiful, cheesy bechamel that is baked until golden.

It is filling, flavorful and hearty.

Start with a large 9" x 13" baking dish, sprayed with non-stick spray.

Then I peeled and boiled two large russet potatoes until just softened, but still holding together. I sliced and layered the potato in the bottom of my dish.

You can see below that the centers are not completely cooked, but they sliced easily.

The I sliced and salted the eggplant. I left these in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes to remove any excess moisture. Afterwards I rinsed and patted them dry before laying them on a baking sheet and brushing them with oil to bake.

While baking I created the meat sauce with browned lamb, sauteed onion, the tomatoes, garlic and seasoning. This reduced down slightly and thickened beautifully.

Then it was time to complete my layers!

On top of the potatoes I placed the cooked eggplant slices, then poured on the meat sauce.

The last lovely layer is the bechemel, and I must admit it is the best!

Trisha didn't specify cheeses for the sauce, so I did a little online research and settled on the Parmesan and feta. Oh, my! So good.

I know that cream sauces can be thick and rich, but with the egg it wasn't heavy at all. It was light, cheesy and divine. Mmmm....

It all baked up till heated through and the bechemel became a gloriously golden color. Really, you have to try this for your family. It is a new comfort food staple in our home. I hope you enjoy the recipe below. Don't forget to check out Trisha's original recipe on My Hobbie Lobbie, and be sure to check out all her other amazing recipes in her recipe index. Next I have to make her Siracha Chinese Cucumber Salad and Torte di Ricotta.

recipe adapted from My Hobbie Lobbie

You will Need:
  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 2 large eggplant
  • 3 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
  • Salt, to taste
B├ęchamel Sauce
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 c. hot milk
  • 2 egg yolks beaten
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c. Greek feta cheese
Prepare a 9" x 13" casserole dish with non-stick spray.

Boil the russet potatoes for 10 minutes, or until they are soft, but still firm. Set these aside to cool, then slice in rounds. Place a layer on the bottom of the casserole dish.

Then slice the eggplant into rounds and salt them to remove extra moisture. Place in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes. Then rinse and pat dry. Place on a sprayed baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened and slightly browned. Place these in a layer in the baking dish.

Then create the meat sauce by heating up some oil and softening onion in a large cast iron skillet. Brown the lamb and stir in garlic and sliced tomatoes at the very end. Stir in the tomato puree and oregano. Simmer till reduced by half, season to taste. Spread this sauce over the eggplant layer.

Last, create the bechamel by heating the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Slowly stir in the flour whisking to avoid lumps and letting it cook till it smells toasty. Remove from the heat and slowly pour in the hot milk. Bring the sauce back to a gentle simmer and let it thicken till smooth and thick. Remove from the heat. Gently temper the egg yolks and temper with a ladle of hot milk mixture. Keep adding and stirring to not "cook" the yolks. Once finished, stir in the cheese to melt and pour over the casserole.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes, or until heated through and the top begins to turn golden. All the Moussaka to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


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