Guest Blogger: Amanda's Moussaka Gratin - Sweet Potato Chronicles - Sweet Potato Chronicles

Guest Blogger: Amanda's Moussaka Gratin

When I was in ele­men­tary school my best friend was a girl named Athena. Athena came from a big Greek fam­ily that included four daugh­ters. At Athena's house, I learned how to swear in Greek ( I can still say shit.…not that it mat­ters.), found out all kinds of unmen­tion­able stuff from her older sis­ters and was exposed to the insane deli­cious­ness of Greek cui­sine. I espe­cially loved hang­ing out around her house dur­ing the hol­i­days. Athena's home would wreak of yummy aromas–homemade spankopita, sweet breads and bakalava. I can still remem­ber the flaky, sweet good­ness of her mother's bakalava. I sud­denly had a whole world opened to me: meals with funny names like mous­saka and gyro. It's why today I have a soft spot for Greek food. Next to Mex­i­can, it is my most favorite cui­sine. Luck­ily, Toronto has a won­der­fully vibrant Greek com­mu­nity and I can always find a great lit­tle spot to sat­isfy my craving.

One thing I never would dare to do, until now, is to try my own hand at Greek cook­ing. I could never do it jus­tice. How­ever, one day, my sister-in-law one filled my in-box with this recipe for a Mous­saka Gratin. A chef in the States, I think Amanda just whipped this up one after­noon. I, how­ever, would have to carry the recipe in my purse for at least two weeks before I got around to buy­ing all the ingre­di­ents. (That's if I could still read the recipe after it lived in my purse for a few weeks.) Then, I'd get busy, for­get, run out of time that week, you know, the reg­u­lar week foibles and wind up never mak­ing it. Finally, on a Sat­ur­day, I'd maybe make this meal. As you can gather, I'm no Amanda. But it's worth mak­ing the time for this meal. It's not a week day event, how­ever, you'll rel­ish hav­ing this baby in the freezer come Wednes­day.  I guess I'd only have one ques­tion? I won­der what Athena would think of this dish?

Amanda's Mous­saka Gratin

Serves 8 – 10

 5 – 6 med egg­plants (about 5”), peeled, & cut into 1” pieces
Kosher salt
¼ cup extra vir­gin olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 large cel­ery stalks, finely chopped
4 large cloves gar­lic, finely minced
2 lb ground lamb
1 pint cherry toma­toes
3 table­spoons ground cin­na­mon
2 whole nut­megs
1 cup low sodium stock (beef, chix, or veg)
½ cup  flat leaf pars­ley, fresh, finely chopped
Ground black pep­per
3 cups whole milk
2 bay leaves
6 whole pep­per­corns
1 large gar­lic clove, whole
1 small onion, cut in half
4 whole cloves
¼ cup unsalted but­ter
¼ cup all pur­pose flour
2 large egg yolks
4 oounces pecorino, finely grated (about 3 cups)
2 large egg whites

Method

Heat the oven to 400.

Toss the egg­plant w/kosher salt, place in a strainer over a bowl or in the sink and set aside.

In a 14” skil­let, heat 2 table­spoons olive oil over med heat sauté onion, cel­ery, & gar­lic until soft­ened.  Raise heat to med-high, add lamb, cook til browned.  Add toma­toes, cin­na­mon, salt and freshly ground pep­per TT, and stock.  Cook until toma­toes are soft (brake them up w/a spoon or spat­ula), and juices have reduced but mix­ture is still very moist.  Stir in pars­ley and sea­son with about 1 whole nut­meg finely grated.  Trans­fer to a large bowl and set aside.

Rinse the egg­plant thor­oughly and spin or pat dry with paper tow­els.  Heat the remain­ing olive oil in same skil­let over med-high heat.  Add egg­plant and sauté, allow­ing to brown, until soft but not mushy (you can add more olive oil if nec­es­sary).  Stir into meat mix­ture and sea­son TT with salt and pep­per if desired.  Spoon the mix­ture into desired cook­ing vessel(s) -  (large casse­role dish or 10 — 12 deep indi­vid­ual ramekins) smooth­ing out the top, leav­ing at least 1 – 1 ½ “ at the top for béchamel sauce.

Add the milk, bay leaf, pep­per­corns, whole gar­lic clove, small onion cut in half, cloves, and about ½ — 1 whole nut­meg finely grated into a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, uncov­ered, over med heat.  Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for at least 10 minutes. 

Melt the but­ter over med heat in a large saucepan, add flour, stir­ring con­stantly until a very slight golden color.  Strain in the reserved milk and whisk until thick­ened and shiny.  Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl with about ½ cup of the sauce.  Add to sauce and whisk well.  Stir in the cheese.  Remove from heat.

Whisk the egg whites well (stiff peaks would be nice but even if you just get it really foamy it will be fine).  Fold egg whites into the sauce.  Spoon the sauce on top of the eggplant/lamb mix­ture (as evenly as pos­si­ble if using indi­vid­ual ramekins) leav­ing about ¼” from the top.

Put the cook­ing ves­sel in a water bath about half way up the and cover w/foil.  Bake for 15 min­utes.  Remove foil and bake an addi­tional 35–40 mins until bub­bling and browned.  Cool about 10–15 mins before serving.

  

One Comment

  1. jan Clements says:

    Sounds won­der­ful! Can't wait to try it.

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