Hello, everyone! It’s Jess again. I wanted to make good on my word that I’d share about this dish if it came out good, and it did, so here we go!
Moussaka is a traditional Greek dish that is akin to Shepherd’s Pie in it’s layers of delicious starches and veggies. It is a total comfort food that takes patience to make, however the outcome is layer upon layer of unique flavor that make it all worth the time. Moussaka is one of my favorite dishes to make when the Meat Subscription throws some ground goat my way at the same time that fresh eggplant and potatoes are available. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen goat in the Meat Share, and now that the eggplant and potatoes are rolling through, I’ve found myself missing my beloved Moussaka. I know I could use beef, lamb, or some other meat, however, I wondered if I could make a vegetarian version that would hold up to the hearty dish I’ve made in the past.
My favorite Moussaka recipe so far is adapted from Greek food expert Lynn Livanos Athan’s recipe. One of the things that she suggests is to place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle them with salt before covering them with a plate and weighting them down for an hour.
This removes any bitterness that you might find in the eggplant (though this is not something you often need to worry about with the eggplant we are working with, it is still a step I take for flavor and tenderizing purposes. I baked my slices before assembling them in the Moussaka.
These are great just by themselves. I couldn’t help but sample one or two along the way. I tend to make more than I need as even if they don’t fit in the Moussaka dish, they can be used for other dishes.
Meanwhile, I pulled slightly from a Vegetable Moussaka recipe featured in an issue of Bon Appétit September 1999. It replaces the meat with portobello mushrooms. A sauté of Springdell onions and Community Garden carrots started things off.
Some red wine, spices, tomatoes and the mushrooms went into the pot. Though the Bon Appétit recipe called for celery, I tried a dash of celery seed and some of the crisp apple from our share. Along with the cinnamon it all smelled wonderful!
The béchamel sauce really makes this dish. The original version is so decadent, but also contains 2 sticks of butter. Instead, I went with a version of the béchamel using Parmesan.
The trick is to keep on stirring this as you add the milk to keep the texture smooth and silky.
I couldn’t fit it all comfortably in one dish so I made two dishes of this lovely stuff. (I should add that at this stage you can store these assembled Moussaka dishes in the fridge for a day or two before finishing them in the oven.
Here you have that creamy and delicate béchamel crust that just makes it all worthwhile.
- About 1 pounds of eggplant, sliced into ¼-1/2 inch rounds.
- 2 large potatoes, preferably Yukon gold
- 2-4 portobello mushroom caps (6-12 ounces)
- 3 carrots, finely diced
- 2 large onions, finely diced
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 crisp apples, chopped
- dash of celery seed
- olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh parsley (or ½ tablespoon dried parsley)
- 1 cup of fresh tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- 7 tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 3½ cups of whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks, beaten
- Layer the eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle kosher salt on the rounds as you go. Cover the with a plate and weigh the plate down with a heavy can or jar. Check back n at least 20 minutes. Rinse the salt and then dry with paper towels before brushing them with oil.
- Meanwhile, peel and boil potatoes whole until just losing their crisp. Slice into ¼ inch slices and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 425 and bake your eggplant slices in a rimmed cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes per side or until tender.
- For the tomato mixture, in a large heated sauté pan, add olive oil, onion and carrots and saute until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook one minute more. Add the wine and and reduce it for a bit before adding the cinnamon, parsley, tomato puree and paste, mushroom, celery seed and apple. Simmer until the wine reduces to create a dry, chunky tomato sauce, about 10 minutes or so.
- For the béchamel, melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and stir for about 5 minutes before adding in ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper before whisking in the egg yolks. Continue to whisk until things thicken, anywhere from 5-15 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Grease a large baking dish before layering in potatoes, followed by eggplant, tomato mixture, and top with the béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and bake for 1 hour at 350.