Moussaka

IMAG1902This dish is easy but takes a very long time to make, so it’s probably best for a Sunday supper or a special meal. You can make it up to two days ahead, if you like, and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake it.

IMAG1898To make things a bit easier, I recommend having all the ingredients mise en place before you begin cooking.

Serves 8-10, depending on how large you like your portions

3 medium eggplants, sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup olive oil
1 cup flour
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. lean ground meat (lamb or turkey)
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
35 oz. canned peeled tomatoes, drained well and chopped (I puncture the tomatoes with my thumb in the colander, then lightly squeeze them to drain them further)
2/3 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream (you can use regular cream or even half-and-half if you want to lighten things a little)

Place the eggplant slices on paper towels and sprinkle with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in medium saucepan boil the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 of the oil over high heat. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour; shake off any excess. Add the eggplant to the skillet in batches and fry over high heat, using more of the oil as necessary, until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove and let drain on paper towels.

Add to the skillet about 3 Tbsp. oil and turn the heat to moderate. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the meat and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no trace of pink remains.

Drain the meat if necessary (for turkey, I didn’t have to), then return it to the pan. Stir in the tomato paste, cinnamon, thyme, and pepper. Cook for another minute, stirring to blend the flavors. Tranfer to a large bowl and add the tomatoes, potatoes, and feta and stir well to combine.

Line the bottom and sides of a 5- to 6-quart shallow baking dish (I used a 12×15-inch pan) with eggplant, overlapping them slightly. Reserve some slices for the top.

Spoon the meat mixture into the baking dish. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and cream, then pour it over the meat. Cover with the reserved eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly if you can. (The moussaka can be prepared ahead until this point.)

Bake until the top is nicely browned, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

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