When I lived up in Massachusetts there was this dive of a Greek restaurant in a not-so-good part of Brockton that I could not stay away from because they had the absolute best Moussaka that I have ever, EVAH had in my life. I do remember friends and others ordering different items from the menu and while all were delicious I’m not sure that I ever ordered anything other than the Moussaka because it was my favorite and I looked forward to having it each and every time I ate there. It’s been over a decade since I last lived in Massachusetts so I don’t remember the name of the restaurant nor do I know if it’s still around but I do remember the flavors and this recipe is exactly what I remember.
This recipe does take a bit of work but it is so worth the effort. This recipe makes two large trays because after I make it I allow at least one of the baked trays to cool and set-up in the refrigerator over night and then I cut and freeze in individual portions. To reheat I allow the frozen portion to defrost overnight in the refrigerator and then just heat in the microwave and it holds up very well. My freezer is never without a few portions so when I have a Moussaka craving, I can easily satisfy it.
For the eggplant and potatoes:
6 large eggplants, (approx 5 lbs) partially peeled, so that when you cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices, skin will remain on the edges of the slices
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
For the lamb-tomato sauce:
2 large onions, medium diced
2 pounds ground lamb
4 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup red wine
1 - 28 oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes (with puree), roughly chopped
1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 Tablespoons honey
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Béchamel:
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs for bottom of the pans
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Bake the eggplant & potatoes: Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil and lay on 2 large foil-lined baking sheets. Season with salt and pepper. Brush the potato slices on both sides with olive oil and lay on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Cover both the eggplant & potato pans with foil and bake until the eggplant and potatoes are soft, about 45 minutes. Set aside covered.
For the Lamb Tomato Sauce mixture: Place a large sauté pan on the stove over medium high heat. When the pan is hot add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and then the onions. Cook the onions until they are golden and caramelized. Add the ground lamb and cook until it begins to turn brown, breaking up any big chunks. Add the garlic and sauté for 5 more minutes. Add the oregano, bay leaves, cloves, allspice and cinnamon and cook for 3 more minutes. Deglaze the pan with red wine. Cook over medium high heat until the red wine has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste & honey. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is a thick tomato sauce consistency, about 30 minutes. Check for seasoning and add salt & pepper. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
For the Béchamel: In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour to make a roux. Cook the roux over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes, or until it becomes a very pale tan color. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Add the nutmeg and the lemon juice. Simmer, stirring constantly, over low heat for approximately 15 minutes. The mixture should be fairly thick. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Take 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture and whisk it into the beaten eggs. This will temper the eggs. Whisk the egg/milk mixture back into the milk mixture. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir. Over very low heat, cook this mixture for 3 more minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture simmer. Season with salt and pepper.( I added a good teaspoon of pepper and almost that much salt) Remove from the heat and cool.
To finish: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the bottom of a greased 10x12-inch deep dish pan with the 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs and then turn pan over and tap out any extra so that you have a very thin coating on the bottom. Using half of the eggplant, place a layer of the eggplant over the breadcrumbs over lapping slices if necessary. Layer all of the potatoes over the eggplant. Layer all of the lamb tomato sauce mixture over the potatoes. Layer the remaining eggplant over the lamb tomato sauce mixture, over lapping slices if necessary. Top with the béchamel and then sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 60-90 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving.