Easy Eggplant Moussaka Recipe – For Sunday dinner at Mom’s, I created an easy version of eggplant moussaka.
Of course, we could be like Miss Clairee and call it an aubergine moussaka recipe!
Call it eggplant, grape or aubergine, not only is it a time consuming dish to prepare and assemble but there are hundreds of Greek eggplant moussaka recipes.
I also would venture to say there are as many variations as there are great cooks in Greece.
An easy version? Let me rephrase that to easier, quicker, semi homemade and prepared to fit into Mom’s fairly restrictive diet.
There is nothing difficult about making Greek eggplant moussaka. It’s just that the various components of the recipe have to be prepared seperately before the dish itself can be assembled.
What’s in an eggplant moussaka? Thin slices of eggplants layered with lamb that has been seasoned with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and fresh herbs to form a scrumptious meat layer which is topped off with a thick and creamy cheese laced béchamel sauce.
Did I mention that we love lamb? Particularly lamb prepared à la Grecque.
[yellowbox]The combination of spices used to season lamb in many Meditarranean countries is a flavor that is forever on my tastebuds. It is, however, easy to make Greek seasoning mix at home (although you can buy the dry version ready made).[/yellowbox]
Between you and me, the dry version does not even come close to delivering the flavor punch of its fresh counterpart.
The dry seasoning works for certain recipes while a similar combination of fresh spices and herbs is ideal when using ground lamb.
For this easy eggplant moussake recipe, chop the onions and use a press to mince the fresh garlic. The parsley and fresh herbs are chopped fine with kitchen scissors. The bay leaves stay whole and are removed when you are building the layers of eggplant and meat.
Fill the bowl of a mini-processor with loads of fresh garlic and onions, fresh oregano, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Then sprinkle everything with sea salt crystals and a good amount of freshly cracked pepper. Add fresh lemon juice to create a paste/rub that becomes more potent as it sits. Rub this on a lamb roast or lamb shanks and allow the meat to marinate until you are ready to cook it. The longer it sits in the rub, the better the flavors!
Peel and slice the eggplant. As you place the slices in a colander, sprinkle evenly with salt on both sides. Set aside to sweat. Just prior to pan frying, place the wet slices on a paper towel to absorb most of the moisture before frying the eggplant in a drizzle of hot oil and a hint of butter.
Heat some olive oil in a large heavy pan. Add the sliced onions and fry over medium heat until they take on just a hint of color. Add the garlic. Continue to fry but do not allow the garlic to burn.
To the onion mixture, add the ground lamb. Break up the ground meat with a handy “Good Grips®” meat chopper as seen in the photo gallery below. It makes short work of turning the pound of meat into crumbles. Brown the meat completely and combine well with the onion mixture.
When the meat has browned, tip the pan and remove any accumulated fat. This is where I use my paper towel trick.
Take 3 paper towels. Fold them as many times as required to get them down to kitchen sponge size. Remove the pan from the burner. Move all the ground meat to one side of the pan and carefully tip the pan to make the liquid collect on the opposite side. Place one of your paper towel “sponges” in the rendered fat and allow it to absorb as much liquid as possible. Repeat until all the fat is removed from the pan. Allow the soaked paper towels to cool in a pan. Toss in the trash.
Once the fat is removed, add fresh herbs and season the meat to taste. Mix to combine well and adjust seasonings. Pour the 2 jars of Marinara sauce over the meat. Stir well. Adjust seasonings and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir several times while simmering. You should have a thick, meaty and perfectly seasoned sauce. Set aside.
I removed almost 2 cups of liquid from the eggplant slices. They were still too wet to add to a frying pan coated with olive oil. Drain them on a paper towel before frying them until brown. Eggplant is very bland. As they brown on both sides, season them with your home made Greek seasoning mix. As you cook the slices, set aside on a paper towel to wait until the assembly stage.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and add the flour, whisking to incorporate as quickly as possible. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Wisk in 1 cup of the milk until it forms a thick paste. Add the rest of the milk and whisk quickly to combine well.
Return the saucepan to the stove and continue to whisk gently and continuously until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the Parmesan. Blend into the sauce until melted. The sauce will continue to thicken. When thick enough to coat a spoon, remove the pan from the stove and set aside to cool and thicken while you begin assembling the moussaka layers.
This easy eggplant moussaka recipe needs the ideal dish to cook it and serve it. In my pantry, that perfect oblong dish (for lasagna too) is my vintage Denby® stoneware dish which looks much like the Amethyst model – except in avocado green and butter yellow colors. The heat is evenly dispersed throughout the stoneware for even cooking on all sides as well as the bottom.
Heavily butter the sides and bottom of your dish. Spread a thin even layer of mashed potatoes on the bottom. The mashed potatoes will form a crisp layer. Some Greek recipes call for a layer of thinly sliced potatoes. I opted not to use sliced potatoes because of a time crunch.
The layers go as follows with the potatoes in the bottom and the cream sauce as the last layer:
Denby Praline Large Oblong DishDenby Halo Large Oblong DishDenby Amethyst Large Oblong DishDenby Cook & Dine Oblong Dish
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the sauce is a bubbly and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let the dish cool for about 15 minutes.
Nice, neat portions are not an easy task while the casserole is still hot. My photo is proof of this. But we were hungry and I needed a photo!
All you need to make this a complete meal is a crisp Greek salad full of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and feta and tossed with a Greek vinaigrette. Opa!
P.S. Many Greek eggplant moussaka recipes include cinnamon and nutmeg as ingredients. I’ve eaten these dishes with gusto but I am not crazy about the flavor of cinnamon with meats.
Nutmeg tastes best in a custard or in a pie. Loved your Easy Eggplant Moussaka Recipe but please Mrs. Kristofides, absolutely no mint in my Pastitsio 🙂 Συγνώμη!