Mουσακάς! Greek Moussaka! I’m really excited about this dish. So excited that I made it six times before posting about it!
Moussaka is wonderful for a bunch of reasons (and I know you’ll agree once you make it!). I’m not sure how to list them so I’ll just go for it
- Moussaka tastes wonderful. Your first forkful contains a blend of flavors. You’ll catch a hint of thyme, the starch from the potatoes, the sharper flavors of the ragù, the subtle eggplant and zucchini juices, and the creaminess of the béchamel sauce.
- It is both affordable and easy to make! How about that!
- You can easily store moussaka in the fridge (or freezer) and reheat it without trouble!
Can you start to see why it’s so great? If you have ever been to Greece, you’ll know that this dish is worth making.
I’m baking some pâte à choux (choux pastry) right now, so I hope you can follow everything I’m saying as I bounce back and forth between you the oven :/
Let’s not diddle daddle today! I’m on a timer (quite literally, 30 minutes to go before I have to drop the oven’s temperature)!
First I want to point out that there are a few variations you can have to the Moussaka. Not variation like I’ve used so far (if you’ve followed my posts. If you have then you know that each dish usually has several variations between each region in the country of origin), but here I mean to say that there are a few well dispersed (common) variations. For instance, I’m going to show you how to make a moussaka with eggplant, zucchini, and potato. Often you’ll find the dish with eggplant or zucchini, not both. I prefer both. They each add their own distinct flavors without overwhelming the pallet.
You won’t need too many ingredients today! So go to your fridge and pantry and pull out 3 large potatoes, 1 large eggplant (or two small), 2 small zucchini, 1 large onion, 1 lb (453 grams) of ground beef, 28 oz (794 grams) of tomato sauce, 1 carrot, the ingredients for bechamel sauce, some parmesan cheese, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon (2.3 grams) of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, thyme, salt, and olive oil. My goodness. That does seem like a lot more than I thought! But have no fear, they will seem like a lot less once you use them.
Turn your oven on to 390ºF (200ºC). Let’s not forget that (side note: I forgot to turn my oven on for my pâte à choux this morning…).
Now, wash the potatoes, eggplant, and zucchini. Then take them and cut them up into circles (washers, cylinders or whatever you’d like to call them).
With the eggplant, grab some paper towels and press them for a few seconds. We want them to dry a little before we brown them. Pat dry the potatoes and zucchini too.
By now, the oven should be preheated. On a cookie sheet, put down some parchment paper or a baking mat. Then place the veggies on top and put the pan into the oven. They should be near the top, the first or second rack. As they brown, take them out and flip them over.
Once they finish browning, remove them from the oven. Take out a 9×13 pan ( that is what I used, you need more or less space depending on how large your veggies were). Add some olive oil to the bottom of the pan and then add the potatoes. Cover the entire bottom part of the pan with potatoes. Sprinkle salt and thyme.
Before we add the other layers, we need to caramelize some onion! Grab the onion and slice it quarters. (We’ll use one-quarter of the onion later.) Slice it so that we have those nice long pieces. Put a pan on the stove at high heat, add a little oil. Once the pan is hot turn, down the temperature and then add the onion and a dash of salt. The onions will take a while to caramelize. They will slowly turn brown as they cook. Stir regularly to prevent burning.
With that done, add a layer of zucchini and then sprinkle salt and thyme. Do the same with the eggplant.
Making a ragù is rather simple, and it will be for you after you make it today! Grab your carrot and dice it (it always confused me what dice, cube, and chop all meant. Eventually I figured it out, but to make sure you, and I, understand in this post I found this great resource). We don’t want the carrot too large or else you’ll have a chunky sauce. While you’re at it, dice the remaining quarter part of the onion and then mince the garlic.
Now toss the carrot in a hot pan along with the onion. Let them cook for a minute and then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and the garlic. You’ll smell the cinnamon and nutmeg as they cook. Thirty or so seconds later, add the ground beef. Mix all the spices into the meat before continuing. The meat will brown. As it cooks, you’ll want to cut up the larger chunks. We want the cooked ground beef to be as small as possible. Once all the bigger chunks are gone, add the tomato sauce and let it simmer for 10-20 minutes.
Make a béchamel sauce and then add a hard Greek cheese (or parmesan). Mix it in thoroughly.
Now both sauces will have finished. Pour first the ragù over the veggies and then cover the ragù with the bechamel sauce.
Put your moussaka into the oven for 35-40 minutes. We want the bèchamel sauce to brown.
Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 30-45 minutes. At the end of the cooling time take a knife and cut the bechamel sauce away from the sides of the pan.
Something Else I Suggest:
If you don’t want to use your oven or are looking for a bit more control over browning the veggies, try using a pan. Heat a pan to a high heat, add olive oil, and add the potatoes. Brown both sides. Do the same to the eggplant and zucchini. I really like doing it this way, actually I prefer it. The only catch to using the pan is the time it takes to individually cook each piece. I highly recommend using a pan though! In Greece, both the oven and pan may be used when preparing moussaka, so don’t worry about one method not being authentic.