• Nikki Glekas

MOUSSAKA


This is probably one of the most well-known Mediterranean dishes around the world. Moussaka is a dense casserole filled with vegetables and beef, and topped with a creamy bechamel sauce. It is decadent, filling and all-around delicious. This is one of my more involved recipes, which is why I typically make it on a weekend afternoon when I have time to be in the kitchen uninterrupted.

Making this requires having several components going at them same time. If you don’t do it this way it will take the whole day to complete. As you see in this episode, I always start with roasting the vegetables, then getting the beef started while they are in the oven. Those both take the longest so it’s good to have them underway. Then, I set up the frying oil and cook the potatoes..

When you stagger the start of these parts of the dish, they will all finish within about 10 minutes of each other, which is ideal. This way you can swiftly assemble everything and complete the final stage – making the bechamel sauce. This part doesn’t take long but requires your full attention since you don’t want it to burn on the stovetop.

As you assemble the casserole it’s essential that you use the parchment paper to press everything down into the pan so it’s nice and compact. The sauce will still seep into it, it’s critical that you don’t have any air pockets because you really want this to be a hearty dish.

Once the vegetables and meat are layered you can pour the bechamel on top and let is roll down into the layers of the vegetables. As it bakes it will puff up into a delicious topping that brings the whole casserole together. I can't tell you how incredibly good this is once it is baked. The flavors of the potato, eggplant, and zucchini marry with the spiced meat sauce. The bechamel is a delicious cloud that tops off the whole thing and tastes like a dream.

While this casserole takes a while to make it is always worth it in the end. We hope you enjoy it in your home!




MOUSSAKA


9 x 13 pan


Moussaka is one of the most well-known dishes from Greece that you can find all over the world. It’s a thick casserole full of vegetables that are commonly found in gardens in the Mediterranean climate. There is also a hearty layer of beef or lamb that adds to its richness. One tray of this goes a long way, I often make it for family events and it was very popular in the winter at our Greek restaurant.


Vegetables

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise

  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise

  • 3-4 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick


For meat sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 2 lbs ground beef (80/20)

  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, more if needed

  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) tomato paste

  • 1 ½ fl oz, (or 3 tablespoons) brandy or cognac


For béchamel

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 6 tablespoons flour

  • 2 cups cold whole milk

  • 4 cups hot whole milk

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon white pepper

  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

  • 2 large eggs, divided

  • 1/3 cup of grated parmesan


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  • Place the sliced eggplant and zucchini on a well-oiled baking sheet. Brush the vegetables with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and roast for vegetables for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.


PREPARE THE MEAT SAUCE

  • While the vegetables are roasting cook the meat by adding to a large saute pan with high sides. Drizzle the bottom with the olive oil and bring it to medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it is softened, about 5 minutes. Then, add the ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon so it is very fine. Cook the beef until it is no longer pink.

  • Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and mix it well. Continue cooking for 7 to 9 minutes, or until most of the moisture is gone from the pan.

  • Move the meat to one side of the pan, add in the brand and flambe until all the liquor is cooked off, about 2 minutes.

  • Add the tomato paste and fully combine. Once incorporated, add enough water (about 2 cups) to cover the meat and set on low to simmer or about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Most of the liquid should be cooked off.


PREPARE THE POTATOES

  • Meanwhile, add 2 cups of frying oil to a large saute pan with high sides.

  • Bring the oil to high heat and add the potato slices, cooking until they are golden brown and completely cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. Place them on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up all the excess oil.


PREPARE THE CASSEROLE

  • Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13 baking dish.

  • Line the bottom of the pan with the potatoes, squeeze them in so they cover the entire bottom.

  • Use a sheet of parchment paper to push down the potatoes to make the potato layer even.

  • Lay the zucchini on top of the potato and repeat with the parchment paper so the zucchini is pressed down evenly into the casserole dish.

  • Next, layer the ground beef on top of the zucchini. Spoon it evenly in one layer so it completely covers the vegetables. Use the parchment paper to carefully press it down so it is a nice, even layer.

  • Lastly, add the eggplant on top of the meat.



PREPARE THE BECHAMEL

  • Add the butter to a medium pot over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk to keep it moving until you smell a nutty aroma and the flour is a light toasted brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.

  • Slowly whisk in cold milk until a thick sauce is formed. Add in warm milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Continue slowly whisking until the sauce is a thick, pudding-like consistency and coats the back of a spoon, about 15-20 minutes.

  • Remove the sauce from heat. Very quickly whisk in two eggs (you must work quickly to ensure your eggs don’t scramble). Once fully incorporated, fold in 1/3 cup of Parmesan.

  • Allow the bechamel to cool slightly, then pour is over the casserole slowly, allowing it to absorb into the vegetables and meat so it is completely covered. Sprinkle the top with ground nutmeg.

  • Bake the casserole at 375 degrees F for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and it is completely heated through.



Spray bottom of pan

Complete layer of cooked potatoes

Push down with parchment paper

Layer zucchini

Push down lightly with parchment paper

Layer meat

Push down lightly with parchment paper to make even

Layer eggplant

Press down lightly with clean hands

Pour bechamel on top bake for 30 mins till golden brown

Sprinkle nutmeg



Nikki Glekas is the owner of Nikki Glekas Events, a full-service catering and events company located in Stamford, CT. She is currently operating with COVID-safe procedures and is happy to discuss your event and catering needs with you. To discuss further please contact team@nikkiglekasevents.com or call 203.658.8659.

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