If At First You Don’t Succeed…

A few days ago, I tried my hand at making moussaka (an eggplant/potato/ground beef casserole) using this recipe. While the first attempt tasted absolutely fantastic, it didn’t plate well at all, because it collapsed upon itself because the meat mixture was so saucy:

Moussaka

With that in mind, I decided to make it again this weekend – this time I planned on freezing it as part of my experiment with OAMC (once a month cooking). So, I took the original recipe, and made some modifications, namely lowering the oil content and upping the amount of bechamel sauce. Also, to increase the flavor, I added a couple more olives than the original recipe called for. This time, I was careful to let it sit for an hour or two before cutting, and was quite pleased with the way it came out and plated (read: intact).

Moussaka, Attempt #2

Here’s the modified recipe.

Moussaka

Makes 12 generous servings

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped Kalamata olives
2 lbs ground beef
15 ounces Italian seasoned tomato sauce
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lbs eggplant, sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds

Bechamel Sauce:
3/4 cup butter
3 cups hot milk
3 tablespoons flour
3 eggs
3/4 cup grated kefalograviera cheese (use Parmesan if unavailable)
1/2 teaspoon salt

In large, heavy saucepan, heat 1 tbsp. oil and saute finely ground meat, onion and crushed garlic until lightly browned; add crushed oregano, crushed basil, cinnamon, salt, ripe olives and tomato sauce; Cover and simmer slowly about 30 minutes; uncover and simmer slowly another 30 minutes.

While sauce simmers, prepare Bechamel Sauce (recipe below) and eggplant; cut ends from eggplant (1 large or 2 small) and cut in 1/2-inch-thick slices (if using large, flask-type eggplant, peel the skin off in strips with a vegetable peeler – creating a striped look – with some of the peel left on and some off. If using Japanese-style (the longish, purply-white ones), don’t bother to peel at all); Place on a cookie sheet and brush with remaining olive oil; Place under broiler and broil until light brown; Remove from oven, salt lightly, turn eggplant and repeat process; Then position rack in center of oven and heat to 350 degrees.

There are three ways you can prepare the potatoes for this delicious casserole: 1) shallow-fry potato rounds in olive oil until golden-brown or, 2) for fewer calories, arrange the potato slices in your baking pan, brush lightly with olive oil, bake for 15 minutes, continue with assembly, or 3) if you want to cut calories further, parboil them for 8 minutes; drain well on paper towels.

To assemble: In 13x9x2-inch baking dish, arrange layer of potatoes, overlapping slightly, season lightly (there will be only one layer of potatoes, so use them all up); next, do a layer of eggplant; sprinkle some Parmesan, cheddar and bread crumbs over eggplant; layer meat sauce, freshly grated cheeses, crumbs and Bechamel Sauce until all is used; bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until flecked golden-brown on top.

To make Bechamel Sauce: In saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat; whisk in flour and cook slowly until smooth and lightly cooked (2-3 minutes); add salt and remove from heat; add milk, whisking rapidly and return to heat; cook until thick and bubbly, whisking constantly; allow to cool 5 minutes, whisking once in a while to prevent a skin from forming; incorporate slightly beaten eggs and grated cheese with wire whisk to make fluffy sauce.

Freezer Notes: Once the baked moussaka has completely cooked, cut serving-size pieces, double-wrap in foil and freeze. Defrost in the usual manner and reheat in microwave (or oven) for a delicious, quick meal, when there’s little time to cook and dinner is ready and waiting in the freezer!

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