There are many versions of moussaka out there. This, by far, is my favorite yet… the lightest and most scrumptious to date. Coming from a Greek, that’s a big statement. 🙂
For those unfamiliar with this Greek classic, moussaka is a dish traditionally made with eggplant, meat, and sometimes potatoes. It’s topped with a creamy bechamel-like sauce and is usually spiced with cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg-like flavors. While that may sound strange to those who have never tried it, it’s really quite delicious. My only gripe? It tends to be really heavy. Which is why I’m so in love with this version… heavy it is not. Delicious, it is…
I have made a ton of moussakas in my day… it was actually one of the very first things I ever learned to make! While I would never dare to say this beats out my yiayia’s (Greek for ‘grandma’) or my mom’s version, it is by far the best one I’ve created yet! What’s so great about it you ask? The flavors are perfectly balanced and it’s incredibly light. In fact, I made this for my boyfriend and dad’s wife last week and must admit, was very surprised when all three of us reached in for seconds and then even thirds! Typically, moussaka is a one-helping kind of meal- pretty hefty stuff… but nope, not this one here.
A labor of love indeed, but one well worth the efforts. Like a great lasagna, moussaka takes time and great care, but when done well, is one of the best things ever! I made a classic horiatiki salad (a “village” salad in Greek) to serve along with it (recipe HERE). ‘Twas a perfect combo for a lovely night of eating and catching up! 🙂
Everything is lightened up in this recipe, a benefit for those on the health-conscious side. If you’re wanting a gluten-free version, simply substitute sweet rice flour in for the bechamel sauce. It won’t change it much. 🙂 Hope you enjoy this as much as I did… 🙂
for veggie layers…
2 eggplant, medium-large in size
3 russet potatoes
drizzle olive oil
salt and pepper
for meat sauce…
1 lb ground turkey (beef and/or lamb work well too)
Places slices in a colander and let sit for at least 30 minutes to sweat- this process
draws out moisture and cuts down on the bitterness- it’s an important step!
You’ll see it sweat before your eyes!
While this is happening, begin prepping other ingredients…
Peel and clean up potatoes
Slice into 1/4 inch slices (it’s okay if they’re a little thinner, but keep them even
in size so that they cook evenly)
Lay potatoes out on a greased baking sheet and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper
Roast for 15 minutes
Lay potatoes on a plate and set side
By now, the eggplant slices should be ready to go!
Rinse the salt and “sweat” off of each slice- very important!!
Lay on a towel and pay dry- get as much moisture out as you can
Lay eggplant slices on the baking sheet
(you can use the same one used for potatoes- no washing necessary!)
Some overlapping may occur… no biggie 🙂
Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper
(light is key- even rinsed, the slices will still retain some of the salt from the sweating process)
Roast for 15 minutes, still at 450 degrees
When done, set aside until ready for assembling
Lower oven heat to 350 degrees so that when you’re ready to bake it, your oven is ready to!
While the eggplant is roasting, you can begin making the meat sauce…
Finely chop onion
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat (I prefer cast-iron for this)
Add onion and half of the oregano, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper
(you will add the other half of the spices later)
Stir and saute for a few minutes, until onions are soft and beginning to turn translucent
Add ground turkey and cook for a few more minutes, stirring periodically
Finely mince garlic and parsley
Add them to the onion and turkey mixture
Then add the diced tomatoes (some juice is fine) and wine
Continue cooking until turkey is no longer pink
Add the other half of the spices (oregano, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper)
Then lower heat to low and let simmer to evaporate some of the liquid
While it is simmering, begin assembling the veggie layers- don’t worry if the liquid doesn’t completely evaporate- using a slotted spoon when scooping up the meat mixture will allow the liquid to stay behind 🙂
To assemble, you’ll need a large baking dish, such a lasagna pan
Get the eggplant slices and potatoes near and you’re ready!
Grease the pan on bottoms and sides
Layer potato slices along the bottom of the pan
Overlapping is fine, as long as evenly distributed 🙂
You’ll have two layers of eggplant- one over the potatoes and one for the top of the moussaka
Select the best looking eggplant slices and set them aside for the top layer
Use the remaining slices to layer over the potatoes
Using a slotted spoon (as mentioned earlier), scoop up the meat mixture,
letting the juices drain a wee, over the eggplant slices
Evenly spread the meat over the veggies
Top meat with grated/shredded parmesan
Then layer the remaining slices of eggplant (the ones you set aside earlier) over the parmesan
Now start the bechamel… it doesn’t take long 🙂
Heat the ghee/butter over medium heat and add flour
Using a whisk, blend until smooth
Don’t add remaining ingredients until it’s a smooth consistency,
or else the flour will remain chunky- no bueno
Then add milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper
Stir and let come to a light boil, whisking frequently
The sauce should begin to thicken
Then add parmesan cheese- stir until melted
At the very last minute, add the egg (pre-whisked), and whisk rapidly until forms a smooth creamy texture (you want to whisk quickly to prevent the egg form cooking in the sauce)
Immediately pour the sauce over the eggplant,
drizzling it evenly to fill every corner and space of the pan
Sprinkle parmesan (the powdery type) over the sauce followed
by a light dusting of paprika- the paprika is my mom’s secret touch…
not necessary, but a great way to get a lovely color on your moussaka!
Mmmm, looks good already!
Bake the moussaka, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, until the top is beautifully golden brown
See how the paprika adds a nice golden touch!? Thanks, Mom!
Let set for about 10-15 minutes- this is important so that when you cut into it, the layers stay in place…
if too hot, they will slip and slide all over the place- no bueno.
Serve with a classic Greek-style salad (recipe HERE) and enjoy!!