Lamb, eggplant and tomatoes, oh my! I’m referring to the classic Greek dish Moussaka, and if you haven’t already tried this dish, you’ve been missing out. But, don’t feel bad… I’m going to teach you how to make a deliciously memorable feast that is guaranteed to inspire awe.
I realize that not everyone loves lamb or eggplant, but hear me out when I say that this dish will knock your socks off. There are a couple of reasons why I love this recipe so much:
- All of the flavors work in such harmony together to create a masterpiece.
- This recipe features an abundance of culinary techniques that will make you a better cook!
The first step in the process is to salt your eggplant slices. There’s a lot of debate on this particular topic. Sprinkling the slices with a bit of salt is said to remove the bitter component to the eggplant. I, personally, do not find eggplant to be particularly bitter, but if you want to mellow the flavor, then go ahead and salt the slices (just make sure to rinse and dry them before continuing with the recipe).
You know me… I like sneaking in extra steps to my recipes to build layers of delicious flavors, and now isn’t any different. I thought it would be great to add some sweetness and smokiness to the eggplant, so after the salting process I brushed the slices with olive oil and headed for the grill. I grilled the eggplant on each side until well marked. This step is not necessary, but if you have time I suggest it. Keep in mind… you are going to use 36 different pans making this dish (not really, but close), so adding a grill pan isn’t going to make much of a difference! If you’re looking for other ways to prepare eggplant, watch this very informative video!
With the eggplant portion of the recipe done, it was time to start on the lamb mixture. This is my favorite part of the recipe, simply because it tastes so good! After the ground lamb browns, it simmers in a sweet and savory combination of flavors consisting of onions, garlic, tomatoes, red wine, oregano and cinnamon. You continue to gently simmer the ingredients until the mixture is just about dry.
TIP: I used my Le Creuset Braiser to not only make the lamb mixture, but to assemble and bake the finished dish. One less pan to clean, right? And, because Le Creuset has a cast iron core, it kept the moussaka hot at the table for a long time.
Now is a great time to start making the white sauce called béchamel. “What’s béchamel?” you ask? It’s milk that has been thickened with a roux (a roux being equal parts fat and flour that are cooked together briefly). Just these three ingredients can make such an important sauce!
In this recipe, before being poured over the assembled casserole, the béchamel is enriched with parmesan cheese and eggs. The eggs make the béchamel puff and set into a custard when baked.
Now that you have learned how to salt and grill eggplant, brown lamb, dice an onion, toast spices, understand when to add fresh herbs, prepare a roux, make béchamel and temper eggs, you’re ready to assemble the dish.
I transferred the lamb mixture to a bowl to free up the braiser, and then assembled the dish directly into the now vacant pan, alternating layers of eggplant and lamb, and finally topping it all off with the cheesy, eggy béchamel sauce. You then bake the moussaka until the béchamel fully puffs and browns lightly on top.
Wouldn’t it be great to make this dish with the guidance of our professional chefs, and let us do all of the cleanup? Sounds like the ideal situation, right? Well, you can! Look for The Greek Isles cooking class on The Chopping Block's new March calendars, so you can experience moussaka, too! This dish might also give you some inspiration for that upcoming Easter feast of yours. Get the full recipe here.