January 13, 2016
- 3 medium zucchinis
- 1 large eggplant or 2 medium
- 4 – 5 large potatoes
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups oil for frying: vegetable, canola, etc.
Béchamel Cream Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 tbsp oil
- 4 1/2 cups milk, 2 %
- 2 eggs
- 1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 heaping tsp chicken base powder
- 1/4 tsp salt, optional
Note: This meal is traditionally made with ground lamb. Ground lamb is very hard to find and very expensive, let alone high in saturated fat. Ground beef, therefore, is an exceptional alternative, being easier to find and has less saturated fat.
Moussaka is not your typical “diet food”. It’s rich and heavy, loaded with calories, which is why it should be eaten for lunch, or early in the evening.
Making the Meat Sauce:
In a large empty non-stick pot, brown the ground beef over high heat for 6 – 7 minutes; juices will accumulate. Add the onions and garlic; cook for 5 – 7 minutes, stirring frequently; juices will reduce. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add ground tomato and then enough water to cover mixture by 3 inches. Then add the cinnamon, clove, oregano, bay leaves and chicken or beef base. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover with a lid and then cook 1 3/4 – 2 hours, or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally and replenishing the liquid with more water when necessary. When finished, reduce the liquid to barely cover the beef mixture; the mixture should be thick. Remove and discard bay leaves. In the meantime, prepare the vegetables and the Béchamel sauce.
Frying the Vegetables:
Potatoes: peel, wash and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick rounds; set them aside. The zucchinis and eggplant: do not peel them; simply wash and dry them well, trim off their ends and then slice them into 1/8-inch rounds; set them aside separately. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat about 1/2 cup oil over medium-high heat. In small batches, fry the potatoes until thoroughly cooked and slightly golden, turning them over occasionally to brown evenly, using a set of tongs. Transfer to baking sheet, overlap and stack slices over each other and then loosely cover will foil.
Repeat with the remaining vegetables, in the same manner, setting them aside separately. When frying the eggplant; they have a tendency to slightly break apart during frying and this is normal. During frying, you’ll need to add more oil into the frying pan. Whenever you add fresh (room temperature) oil to a hot frying pan, allow the oil to heat up properly before adding more vegetables; otherwise, the vegetables will absorb a lot more oil – you don’t want this. Cover the fried vegetables with foil paper to keep them warm and soft.
Eggplant, zucchini and potato slices fried up and set in baking sheet.
Making the Béchamel Sauce:
In a medium bowl, break open the eggs and allow them to come to room temperature. In a medium pot, heat the milk over high heat until steaming, but not boiling; set it aside.
In a large non-stick pot, melt the butter with the oil over medium heat. Add in all of the flour at once and then cook for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly; the flour should become tan in colour, not brown. Remove the pot from the heat and then add in a ladle’s worth of the hot milk while whisking vigorously, using a whisk; the mixture will thicken and stiffen. Continue adding in the rest of the hot milk in the same manner; the mixture should be thick and smooth. Return the pot to a medium heat and cook until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, stirring constantly: remove from heat.
Lightly whisk up the eggs. Take a ladle’s worth of the hot cream mixture and slowly dribble it into the eggs while whisking the eggs vigorously. Continue adding in more of the cream mixture into the eggs, in the same manner, until the bowl feels warm to the touch. Quickly whisk the tempered egg mixture into the pot of hot cream mixture. Return the pot to a medium-high heat and cook until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, stirring constantly; remove from heat and whisk in the nutmeg, chicken base and optional salt: set aside.
Assembling and Baking the Moussaka:
Position an oven rack on the lowest level. Line the rack with a sheet of foil paper (shiny side up) 2 inches larger than pan and then crimp edges of paper. Preheat oven to 425’F.
Arrange the potato slices in a single overlapping manner, covering the bottom of the baking pan. Spread half of the meat sauce over the potatoes. Layer the eggplant slices and then spread the other half of the meat sauce over them. Layer the zucchini slices and then pour the Béchamel sauce over them: smooth out the top and wipe edges of the pan clean. If the cream has thickened, then quickly whisk it up; some small lumps will occur.
Bake for 35 – 40 minutes; the edges will be bubbling and the top will unevenly brown. Cool the Moussaka for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, before cutting and serving; otherwise, it’ll fall apart when lifting it out of the pan.
Image author Kullez
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