Trying My Hand at Moussaka

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Moussaka. What is it? Lots of potatoes and eggplant, meat and a custard-ish topping, all cooked together with grated cheese, lots of time, a little bit of wine and a good deal of love. Sounds great, right?

One of the recipes I was most excited to try from the Fine Cooking magazine that I’m cooking through was this Greek dish. And considering how little I knew about it (meaning, nothing other than it had a neat name and really great pictures), man was I right to be excited.

This took hours to make–literally. Mum and I went to so some more foraging the afternoon I made this, and got home around four, so I started on it then. I had to take a break at seven to go pick up our new kitten, but then went right back to the kitchen. And by the time I finished, it was around 8:30. So we stuck my moussaka in the fridge, and ate a snack supper.

The next day we brought it to Supper Club; and let me tell you, by the time we finally ate it, it was worth all the work and bother and. . . fun.

Supper Club
This is what our meal looked like this week, minus the cookies Grandma had in the oven. Chicken & biscuits, moussaka, salad, watermelon, & kefir.

The lady who wrote this recipe in the Fine Cooking magazine had a very interesting backstory to it , and now I really want a cookbook of her recipes, and writing. I think it would be fantastic. . . and delicious.

{1} Onion dicing.
{2} Meat sauce, set aside.
{3} Cut the eggplant!
{4} This is what the salted eggplant looks like after half an hour, drawing out the bitterness.
{4} Slicing lots and lots of potatoes.
{6} Best part!
{7} Many of these went missing between Mum, Mack and myself.
{8} Roasted eggplant!

For some reason I didn’t get any pictures of making the bechamel. . . I must have made the bechamel in a rush before getting the kitty. Speaking of which. . .

Isn’t she sweet? C’mon, you didn’t think I’d forget to mention her, did you? We’ve had her a full week now–and I think she’s decided to keep us. (Because as everyone knows, it’s all about the cat, not the humans.) It’s funny, the pictures I’ve been taking of her look so much like the ones I took of Lolo when we first got her, down to the color of the blanket.

Recipe type: Supper
Cuisine: Greek
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-12 servings
  • For the meat sauce:
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (about 2½ cups)
  • Freshly ground salt & pepper
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • ½ canned crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • Hot sauce
  • For the eggplant:
  • 2 lb. eggplant, trimmed and sliced crosswise about ¼ inch
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil, more as needed
  • Freshly-ground salt & pepper
  • For the potatoes:
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 medium russet potatoes (the fatter the better; about 2½ lbs. washed and dried)
  • Freshly ground salt & pepper
  • For the bechamel:
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup finely grated white cheddar
  • Freshly grated salt & pepper
  • White cheddar to grate in between layers
  • Extra wine
  1. Make the meat sauce:
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions {1}, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, 5-8 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the beef {2}, a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat, until browned, 7-10 minutes.
  4. Add the wine; turn the heat down to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, parsley, and tomato paste, with hot sauce added to taste; stir to combine.
  6. Turn the heat down to low and gently simmer to meld the flavors, stirring once or twice, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside {3}.
  7. Salt the eggplant:
  8. Cover the bottom and sides of a large colander with layers of eggplant slices {4}, salting generously {5} in between layers, until eggplant runs out.
  9. Let sit in the sink or over a large bowl for 30 minutes or up to an hour.
  10. Fry the potatoes:
  11. Heat the oil in a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat until simmering.
  12. Meanwhile, slice the potatoes crosswise into ¼-inch rounds, discarding the end slices {6}. Working in batches, slide potatoes into the hot oil, covering the pan in a single layer {7}. Fry, flipping once, until the potatoes are tender, about 4 minutes.
  13. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined tray and blot the excess oil. Season with salt and pepper while hot {8}. Repeat with remaining potatoes until potatoes run out.
  14. Roast the eggplant:
  15. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350 F.
  16. Rinse the eggplant in cold water to remove excess salt. Press the slices between paper towels or clean kitchen towels to dry, then arrange them in a single layer on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Lightly brush both sides of each slice with the olive oil, and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper. Roast, flipping once, until tender and lightly browned, 30 to 35 minutes {9}.
  17. Make the bechamel:
  18. Heat the milk in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until steaming; set aside.
  19. Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until golden; about 5 minutes.
  20. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and then simmer gently, whisking until the raw flour taste is gone and the sauce thickens; about 5 minutes.
  21. Turn the heat down to low and gradually whisk in the eggs; whisk vigorously to combine. Remove from the heat. Add the ½ cup grated cheese, along with salt and pepper, and whisk until smooth.
  22. Assemble and bake:
  23. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 9x 13-inch baking dish.
  24. Arrange the potatoes in an even layer on the bottom of the dish, overlapping the slices like shingles {10}. Grate cheese evenly over the potatoes.
  25. Arrange the eggplant slices as you did the potatoes {11}, and again grate cheese evenly over the eggplant slices {12}.
  26. Spread the meat sauce in an even layer on top of the eggplant {13}, and grate cheese evenly over the meat.
  27. Pour the bechamel over the meat sauce {14} and spread in an even layer. Evenly grate cheese and grind salt and pepper on the top of the finished moussaka.
  28. Bake until the top it golden brown, 50-60 minutes. Once out of the oven, pour a small amount of wine on the top of the moussaka to keep moist {15}, and place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
  29. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

. . .But, again, back to this.

{9} Layer the potatoes evenly, and grate cheese on top.


{10} Next, layer the eggplant as you layered the potatoes.
{11} Grate cheese over every layer.
{12} Add the meat!
{13} Next, the bechamel. Pour on top of the meat, and then spread evenly.
{14} Pour a small amount of wine on the cooked bechamel to keep moist, then slip back into the oven for 5-10 minutes. Then pull out and enjoy!


There are a few things I would have changed–I think I would like lemon squash better than the eggplant, and I’d add some more meat sauce and bechamel, but all in all, it was quite good. I’ve never cooked with wine–or boiling oil–before, and I loved it; very much a foodie adventure! I told Mom that I should make a bunch of smaller pans to stick in the freezer for around melodrama time–that way we can just stick it in the oven and have a hot supper, and not go foodless. 😉 So hopefully that will be happening sometime, and I can tell you how it turns out with my changes! Have you ever made moussaka before?


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