Introduction: How to Cook a Greek Moussaka
Moussaka is a dish that visually resembles a lasagna. However, the moussaka delivers more satisfaction with its generous layers of eggplants, potatoes, minced meat and creamy béchamel sauce. These instructions will guide you through preparing this delicious meal. Although this dish requires approximately 3 hours to complete, this worthwhile endeavor will leave your guests impressed with just moderate cooking skills.
Step 1: Gathering Ingredients
Ingredients for Vegetable Preparation:
• 2-3 eggplants
• 1 lb. potatoes (peeled)
• olive oil (for brushing)
Ingredients for Meat Sauce:
• 2 lbs. ground beef
• 2 onions (diced)
• 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
• ½ cup red wine (Greek or Pinot Noir)
• ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
• ¼ tsp. ground allspice
• 4 tbsp. tomato paste
• 1 tsp. sugar (not in picture)
• Salt and pepper to taste (not in picture)
Ingredients for Bechamel Sauce:
• 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks or 16 tbsp.)
• 1 cup flour
• 4 cups fresh milk (warmed)
• 3 large eggs
• pinch of ground nutmeg
Ingredients for Moussaka Assembly:
• plain breadcrumbs
• parmesan cheese to taste
The amount of ingredients is ideal for a 13 x 9” deep baking dish.
Step 2: Gathering Kitchenware
The picture above displays several utensils needed to prepare this great dish. Other tools not shown above includes a chopping board, measuring cups and an electric mixer (optional).
Step 3: Preparation of the Vegetables
1. Slice the eggplants lengthwise into ½ inch slices.
Tip: Slicing the eggplants too thin will cause it break apart once the moisture is drained.
2. Place the eggplants on sheets of paper towels and sprinkle salt to draw out the moisture.
Tip: This step could also be done using a colander as shown in the picture. This step reduces bitterness from the eggplants.
3. Allow the eggplants to sit for about 25-30 minutes.
4. Rinse the eggplants and pat it dry with paper towels.
5. Brush the eggplants with olive oil.
6. Grill the eggplants for 3 minutes on each side.
7. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they are cooked.
8. Drain, cool and slice the potatoes into ¼ inch slices.
9. Set vegetables aside.
Step 4: Preparation of the Meat
1. Cook the ground beef in a large sauté pan until browned. (8-10 minutes)
2. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent.
3. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant.
4. Add wine into the pan and allow it to simmer until it reduces a bit. (≈5minutes)
Tip : If moisture is still present, use a strainer. The end product should be a chunkier meat sauce. It is important to before spicing the meat to preserve flavor.
5. Add cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste and sugar into the pan and mix it well.
6. Allow the meat to simmer uncovered so that excess liquid can evaporate.
7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Step 5: Preparation of the BÃ©chamel Sauce
1. Melt butter over low heat in a large sauté pan.
2. Add flour into melted butter and whisk continuously until smooth.
3. Stir the mixture gently while allowing the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
4. Pour warmed milk in increments of 1 cup and continue to whisk.
Tip: Using cold milk may result in clumps.
5. Simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens.
Tip: Pour the sauce through a strainer if clumps are present.
6. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
7. Beat egg yolks and stir it into the mixture.
Tip: Remove the pan from heat before this process.
8. Beat egg whites until it has a soft peak and stir it into the mixture.
Tip: A handheld electric mixer may ease this physically-straining process.
9. Add a pinch of ground nutmeg and stir well.
Note: If the sauce does not thicken, repeat steps 1-3 and continue the rest by substituting the old béchamel for milk. The 1:1 ratio of butter to flour is very important.
Step 6: Assembling the Moussaka
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly grease a large deep baking pan.
Tip: You can either spray oil unto the pan or brush the oil. The oil prevents the base of the dish from sticking to the pan.
3. Sprinkle the bottom of pan with breadcrumbs.
Tip: The breadcrumbs soaks up any moisture from the ingredients keeping the base of the moussaka dry.
4. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom.
Tip: Stack the potatoes slightly overlapping the previous slice as shown in the picture to prevent the moussaka from crumbling later on.
5. Place a layer of eggplant slices on the potatoes.
Tip: Lay the eggplant slices as shown in the picture to further strengthen the structure of the moussaka.
6. Add the meat sauce on top of eggplants and sprinkle with generous amounts of Parmesan cheese.
7. Place another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle with generous amounts of Parmesan cheese.
8. Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and smoothen the top with a spatula.
9. Sprinkle more Parmesan on top of the béchamel sauce.
10. Bake the assembled moussaka for 45-60 minutes or until the béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color.
11. Allow the moussaka to cool before cutting into squares.
Now that you’ve successfully cooked the Greek Moussaka, you have added a stunning dish to your culinary repertoire. There are several alterations that could be done to suit your palate. A healthier version of this dish could be achieved by substituting full cream milk with skim milk and butter with low fat butter. You could also substitute lentils for minced meat to create an equally satisfying vegetarian version of this dish. Enjoy!