December 8, 2009

Lamb Moussaka

A month ago, if anyone were to inquire whether I liked moussaka, I likely would have responded with a “Moose-a-what?” Generally, I enjoy learning about various popular dishes from all around the globe, but this dish must have slipped past my radar. So when one of our Thanksgiving dinner guests (who wishes to remain anonymous) mentioned that she was bringing moussaka as her contribution, I immediately “googled” the dish to learn about it.

The exact origin of moussaka is unclear. Some claim it as a Greek dish (it is quite popular in Greek cuisine), but there are variations throughout the Mediterranean, including Turkey and the Balkans. (according to Wikipedia and other sites) Despite the countless variations, most recipes include a handful of principal ingredients: eggplant (aubergine), tomatoes, onions, and a crusty, creamy layer on top, usually comprised of a bechemel sauce.  (Bechemel is a white sauce, usually made of a flour/butter roux and milk or cream.) Unfortunately for me (and a great deal of other celiacs), bechemel sauce is a deal-breaker.

So when the moussaka arrived at Thanksgiving, I grilled (as politely as I could, of course, but a gluten-free girl’s gotta know whether she can dig in!) the “cook” about the ingredients she used. As she rattled off the (rather short) list of ingredients, (eggplant, tomatoes, onion, parsley, lamb, yogurt, egg…) I quickly discovered that I would be able to try this delicious-sounding dish! And delicious it was – bursting with savory and rich flavors. It seemed impossible how tasty it was – the dish was indeed more than the sum of its parts. I immediately cast aside all class and grace - I begged for the recipe.

I brought up the subject more than once during the remainder of the evening. Not that I really needed to – she already agreed to send it to me. In retrospect, I probably annoyed the hell out of her. In any case, she emailed me the recipe, so my shameless begging did the trick. I jotted down the ingredients needed on my grocery list for this week, and in spite of the lengthy time to prepare the dish (it takes a little more than an hour, which is usually more than I’ll tackle on a weeknight), I made plans to make this last night.

Let me tell you, it was so worth the wait! The yogurt-egg-cheese topping was beautifully browned with just a bit of a crunchy edge. The eggplant layers melded flavors with the lamb and tomato mixture to create a savory, luscious, satisfying filling. I couldn’t help myself – I had to have seconds. And some more for lunch the following day. This was one of those times where I wasn’t too sad that my husband isn’t a fan of eggplant or tomatoes – it just meant there was more for me!

This is the perfect dish for company. If you wish, you can prepare it up to 3-4 hours ahead of time, waiting only to bake it when your guests arrive. It will make the house smell heavenly. You can always round out the meal by adding a garden salad or a potato dish, if you choose.

Now, how to break the news to this guest that she will be asked to bring this dish next year…

 

Lamb Moussaka

2 large eggplants, thinly sliced

1-2 T olive oil

1 lb lean ground lamb (can substitute beef, turkey, or pork)

Salt and pepper

1 large or 2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced (should be about 2 cups)

1 t finely chopped garlic

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

2-3 T chopped fresh parsley

2 eggs

10 fl oz lowfat plain yogurt, drained (see below for instructions on how to drain yogurt)

1 1/2 c finely grated Parmesan cheese

Lay the eggplant slices in a single layer over paper towels. Lightly salt both sides of eggplant slices and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Pat dry. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Brush a very thin layer of olive oil on each side of each eggplant slice. Add eggplant slices in a single layer in the skillet and brown on both sides. Set aside. (You will have to do this in batches) Repeat with remaining slices.

Add lamb to skillet and brown for 5 minutes, crumbling with spatula and stirring as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion slices and garlic and saute for another 7-8 minutes or until onion softens. Add tomatoes and parsley and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is completely tender. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Arrange half of the eggplant slices in a single laer in an oven-proof 13X9 baking dish. Add the lamb-tomato mixture, and then layer the remaining eggplant slices on top.

Beat the eggs in a bowl until doubled in size and foamy (I used my stand mixer for this). Add yogurt and continue beating until the entire mixture is fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture over the eggplant slices, spreading out in an even layer. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serves 4.

How to drain yogurt:

Draining yogurt results in a thicker consistency, much like Greek-style yogurt. Line a large bowl with several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Place the yogurt into the cheesecloth, then gather the ends and fasten them tightly with a rubber band. Hang the cheesecloth over the bowl, allowing it to drip the excess water into the bowl. (I suspended mine over the bowl by wrapping the ends of the cheesecloth around a chopstick and placing a binder clip to secure. You can also hang the cheesecloth over a cupboard knob and place the bowl underneath.) Allow to drip for at least 30 minutes, or longer if you want an even thicker yogurt.

30 Responses to “Lamb Moussaka”

  1. I didn’t hear about moussaka until I visited Greece a couple years ago. And I’m totally addicted to it!
    It’s such a fun way to see eggplants!
    Your version sounds so delicious with that rich and thick topping. It’s been long time since I made it last time. I think it’s time now!

  2. This looks gorgeous…every part of it. I wish I have the patience to cook this dish. Maybe I should just go to you…hehe

  3. oh wow I love mousaka great job love your blog, its great that you googled it and learnt to cook it

  4. I have yet to have or even try to make moussaka but this looks so good I’m going to HAVE to try it soon!

  5. The famous Thanksgiving moussaka … now I REALLY want to make my vegetarian version with eggplants. Yours is beautiful.

  6. Nice. I’ve never tried moussaka before, but I have heard of it. Persistence pays off in getting the recipes you really want. hehe… I do that, too.

  7. love, love, love this!!! now i know what to do with the rest of the eggplants i harvested from my vegetable garden!

  8. Hi, Alta:)

    you had me at moose-a-what..lol Seriously though, this sounds so good and I’ll beg for it too if I have to..good thing you’re sharing this recipe, I like it, it’s simple, thanks so much! :)

  9. Wow this looks fancy and soooo tasty!

  10. I am definitely saving this recipe for later use. Thanks so much for sharing it – it looks absolutely delicious, is healthy and uses simple ingredients!

  11. I first heard of moussaka a long time ago, but it never really registered to me that I would WANT to eat it. lol.
    Yours look truly amazing. Anything with eggplant and cheese is great!

  12. This looks and sounds amazing! I’ve never made moussake before and that yogurt-egg mixture sounds heavenly! Thanks for the draining tip too :) Will need to try this soon!

  13. That looks wonderful. I don’t use eggplant much, but I’d like to try using it more. Thanks for your comment on the calzones. You made my day!

  14. mmm I love moussaka, but I’ve never seen it made without cinnamon! You might wanna try adding some to the lamb next time =)
    it’s goood

  15. That looks totally delicious, Alta! My husband is a huge eggplant fan so Ill definitely have to make this moussaka. :-)

    Thanks!

    Shirley

  16. Pingback: Lamb Moussaka « Tasty Eats At Home Egg Me

  17. Oh this “Moose-a-what?” looks sooooo comfort food right about now! Love eggplant and lamb, but am sure chicken would be great too!

    Regards,
    CCR =8~)

  18. Alta,

    My Greek mom made moussaka all the time when I was little and I just made some of the vegetarian version a while back. I love the yogurt addition to yours to replace the bechamel – while it’s not “traditional” in this dish, it IS very traditional to Greek/Turkish cooking on the whole. Plus I daresay the original dish didn’t include the sauce at all seeing as it’s a French adoption (albeit a tasty one ;).

    Good job! :)

  19. oh that looks wonderful, sorta reminds me of a meaty lasagne

  20. Yum, great reminder for me to make this at home. I love the flavors and I love anything I can make like a casserole, full of favorite flavors!

  21. What a gorgeous delicious looking moussaka! I love it and haven’t had it in a long time, I do need to make it soon!

  22. Looks very good! I have never heard of this before either, but I would love to try it!

    • Jessie – It reminds me of lasagne too! It’s like a lighter/less cheesy lasagne made with eggplant slices instead of noodles. Healthier, without sacrificing taste.

      Mathea – I was contemplating a vegetarian version for next time. Wonder what I’d use? Portobellos spring to mind, as do root veggies. Hmm.

      Dani – I saw several recipes using cinnamon (and allspice). It sounds like a wonderful addition – definitely going to try next time.

      lululu, maryMoh, Natasha, wasabi prime, Cajun Chef Ryan, Shirley, Linda, Shelly Huang, burpexcusme, Conor, simplylife, Olive, raquel, Jenn, Vegetable Matter, Rochelle and Rebecca – Thank you!

  23. I’ve always wanted to try a mousaka, this is beautiful! Will definitely be trying this one ;)

  24. I love your info from Wikipedia. I am such a *nerd* and am always reading or researching. Honestly, it’s just part of who I am. It’s part of how I cook, too. I want to understand the essence of the dish before I try to recreate it. It may not end up anything like the standard version, but at least I know I did my research.

    I have a recipe for a vegetarian moussaka I’ve been wanting to try – I may borrow your topping. It sounds fabulous. I love when we find new ways to eat well on a gluten-free diet.

  25. I hate to just stand here and drool — but moussaka is one of my favorite things. And you’ve done a very good thing here by making this. AND doing your research. Love it. We usually make ours vegetarian — but I’m a big fan of the lamb too!

  26. Wow, I need to try this! It looks great and healthy!

  27. I love love Moussaka, the other day we had it for dinner and my husband and I were discussing how we needed to find a good recipe to try at home. I think we just did, Thanks so much for sharing this:)

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