Moussaka (pronounced Moo-sah-KAH) is a Greek-style casserole made by layering eggplant with a spiced meat filling then topped off with a béchamel sauce that is baked to a golden brown. This is a big recipe, so you may want to consider cutting it in half.

Moussaka

4 lbs. eggplant

1 lb. potatoes

1 Tbsp. water

8 egg whites, lightly beaten (reserve yolks for béchamel)

2 c. plain breadcrumbs

1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb (or beef)

2 large onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 c. red wine

1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1 c. tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes)

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Béchamel Sauce

1 c. salted butter (2 sticks)

1 c. flour

4 c. milk, warmed

8 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1-inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in to 1/2-inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink for an hour so that excess moisture can be drawn out.

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Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and boil them whole for about 25 minutes until they are just done. Drain, cool and slice them in 1/4 inch slices. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Add water to the egg whites and beat them lightly with a fork. Add egg wash to a dredging pan and breadcrumbs to another.

Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Place breaded eggplant slices on baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over once during cooking. Do not discard breadcrumbs before assembling the casserole.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Set aside, then brown the ground lamb (or beef) until the pink color disappears. Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. Return onions and garlic to meat filling and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to assemble casserole.

Make the béchamel sauce: Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown. Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil. Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens, then remove from heat.

When eggplant is finished cooking, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and begin assembly:

Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan). Sprinkle the bottom of pan with breadcrumbs. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant slices.

Add meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 c. Parmesan.

Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Pair this with Lucas & Lewellen’s 2012 Santa Barbara County Toccata Classico, an artful blend of California-grown Italian grape varieties, made in the Super-Tuscan style. This Classico has excellent structure, a long finish, and embodies characteristics of red and black fruit, black cherry, smoky leather, earth and spice. 2016 Wine Enthusiast: 91 points.

Enjoy!

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