Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lamb & Eggplant Moussaka

It's been gray and cold and snowy lately. The kind of weather that makes us want warm, comforting meals. Early last week, I was flipping through Cook Illustrated's cookbook Cover & Bake.This cookbook was one of my Christmas presents. There's a lot of delicious sounding casseroles and slow cooked meals, but the recipe that really caught our eyes was the moussaka. It seemed warm, comforting, filling, and contained some of our favorite foods (eggplant, tomato, & lamb). This is not a difficult casserole, but it is time consuming.Around 3:30 pm we opened a bottle of chianti and poured ourselves each a glass. We turned on the football game, lit some candles, sipped our wine, and started cooking. Our moussaka was finished around 6:45 pm - but that time included a trip to the grocery store (because we forgot to buy the couscous yesterday) and a phone call with my family in GA. It was a wonderfully leisurely cooking afternoon with lots of breaks for sipping wine, checking in on the football games, and sneaking tastes of the biscotti we made earlier in the day. I love leisurely afternoons in the kitchen with SP!

We didn't follow the recipe exactly - we omitted the garlic, used dried herbs instead of fresh, and halved the recipe. Next time we would make the full amount (keeping an eye out for sales on eggplant and lamb since the recipe calls for 4 lbs eggplant and 2 lbs lamb). The recipe doesn't specifically mention serving the moussaka with couscous, but we thought the moussaka would taste great with couscous.

We both really enjoyed this dish - we'll definitely be making it again!

Here's the full recipe, from Cook's Illustrated:

EGGPLANT
4 lbs globe eggplant, peeled & cut into 1 inch cubes
Kosher salt
3 tbsp olive oil

FILLING
2 lbs ground lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
Kosher salt
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 (28 oz) can tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
ground black pepper

BECHAMEL
3 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 oz grated Parmesan (about 1 cup)
pinch ground nutmeg
salt & ground black pepperFOR EGGPLANT Heat oven to 450. Toss the eggplant with 2 tbsp of kosher salt in a large colander set over a bowl and let stand 30 minutes. Working in batches, spread the eggplant between a double layer of paper towels and press firmly until mostly dry. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with 3 tbsp olive oil. Spread in an even layer on cookie sheets and bake until light golden brown, about 40-50 minutes.FOR FILLING Cook the lamb in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a paper towel lined plate. Pour out the fat from the pan and add 2 tbsp olive oil. Return to medium heat. Add the onion and 1 tsp salt; cook until the onion is softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cinnamon; stir for about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add lamb, wine, oregano, 1 tbsp parsley, tomato puree, sugar, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover partially, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the juices have evaporated and the sauce has thickened, about 25-30 minutes.FOR BECHAMEL Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the parmesan and nutmeg. Season with salt & pepper.ASSEMBLE & COOK Heat oven to 400. Spread the eggplant into an even layer across the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Spread lamb mixture evenly over the eggplant. Pour the bechamel evenly over the meat. Bake until browned & bubbly, about 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley before serving.

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