Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Moussak-It To Me!

Lamb Moussaka with Potatoes and Eggplant
I have been woefully negligent about food-blogging, but my excuse is work, work, work. More awesome directing gigs come at the cost of time to experiment in the kitchen. Thankfully, this Thanksgiving weekend has afforded me time (and ample leftovers) to create some culinary magic. My parents came up to spend Thanksgiving with us for a total of nine around our Thanksgiving table. It was a great night, but a 22 pound turkey (plus ample sides) left more leftovers than we knew what to do with. Days of delicious sandwiches have been followed by a gallon of turkey noodle soup, but what about all those mashed potatoes? There are a few recipes out there that I deem "Pain in the Ass Recipes" (my mom's delicious Pumpkin Chiffon Pie comes to mind). These are absolutely delicious dishes, but they don't get made all that often. Lasagne, ravioli, and German Chocolate cake rank amongst my favorites . . . but they are too much fuss to make unless I have the time on my hands to dedicate to a variety of steps, sauces, and a disaster of a kitchen. Well, today I decided to avoid the office all together and work from home. This allowed me to be a little closer to my stove and put in the time to create an amazing Greek-style dish utilizing all those delicious leftover mashed potatoes. While this is certainly not an "everyday" kind of recipe - it sure hits the spot on this cold December night! Try it if you have people to impress or a huge cold-weather appetite . . . or just a bunch of leftover mashed potatoes.

- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 large eggplant, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into 1/4"strips
- olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, trimmed and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 c. red wine
- 1/2 c. chopped kalamata olives
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes and their juices
- salt and pepper
- 4 c. whole milk
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 c. flour
- 4 egg yolks, whisked
- 1 tsp. white pepper
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. all spice
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes 
- 2 tsp. garlic powder, divided
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp/ fresh grated nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped oregano and thyme
- 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped Italian parsley
- leftover mashed potatoes (about 2-3 cups)

Begin by preparing the eggplant. Line a baking sheet with heavy foil and spritz lightly with cooking spray. Arrange eggplant slices on baking sheet and sprinkle one side with salt. Allow eggplant to "sweat" for about 10-15 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices over and repeat on other side. After little beads of condensation collect on eggplant, rinse with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Line up on baking sheet and heat oven to 425˚F. Sprinkle eggplant slices with chopped oregano and thyme and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Roast for about 15 minutes, flip over slices drizzle with additional olive oil. Roast for another 10 minutes until eggplant is soft and tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

While eggplant is roasting, prepare the béchamel sauce. Heat milk to lukewarm in a small sauce pan. Do not bring to a boil. When milk is warm, set aside. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat. Once butter is melted, whisk in flour and continue to whisk for 1 minute until you have a smooth roux. Turn down heat slightly and slowly pour in heated milk about 1/2 c. at a time. Whisk the mixture together as you add the milk, it should create a smooth, creamy sauce. Once all the milk is added, take about 1/4 c. of mixture and slowly pour into whisked eggs, beating together with a fork until the egg mixture is smooth. (Tempering the eggs in this manner will keep them from curdling when you add them to the béchamel sauce.) Continue to slowly add the creamy sauce to the eggs while whisking together with a fork until you've added about 1 c. of the béchamel sauce. Once the eggs are brought to temperature, pour into the béchamel sauce and whisk to combine, set aside. Season with salt, 1 tsp. garlic powder, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

Once the béchamel sauce is prepared, work on the red sauce. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Add chopped onion, pepper, and garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook onion mixture for about 8-10 minutes until the onions are soft and sweet. Add the lamb, paprika, olives, 1 tsp. garlic powder, all spice, cinnamon, and pepper flakes to the skillet. Cook over medium heat until the lanb is browned and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. Turn up heat slightly and add tomato paste, stir vigorously for one minute then slowly pour wine into the mixture. Bring to a boil, add tomatoes, and turn heat down to low. Allow mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft.

 To assemble the moussaka, preheat oven to 400˚F and spritz a 13x9" baking dish with cooking spray. Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with foil and set baking dish inside (this will keep for oven clean in case the moussaka boils over). Pour 1/2 c. meat mixture on the bottom of the baking dish and spread around with a spatula. Arrange half the roasted eggplant slices on the bottom of the baking dish so that is covered completely (eggplant slices should overlap slightly.)

Pour half of the remaining meat mixture on top of the eggplant slices then top with about 2 c. of the béchamel sauce. Layer the remaining eggplant slices on top of the béchamel layer then top with remaining meat sauce. Pour about 2 c. of remaining béchamel sauce over meat layer and spread evenly. Top with mashed potatoes and spread evenly over moussaka, sprinkle potatoes with chopped parsley.

Bake moussaka in oven for about 40 minutes until the sauce mixture is boiling and the potatoes begin to brown on top. Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. It is a time-intensive endeavor, but it's well worth the effort! Yum!

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