Moussaka (Beef and Eggplant Casserole)
Submitted By: friendlybear
Moussaka is a popular casserole-style dish in Greece, Turkey and many other Middle Eastern countries. Typically moussaka contains ground beef or lamb, eggplant (the teardrop, purple type), and a cheese sauce. Of the many versions I've tried, this is the best!
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2 large eggplants, about 1 3/4 pounds
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, diced
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
2 tomatoes (1/2 lb) diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs (such as Herbes de Provence)
1/2 cup flour (for eggplant)
For Bechamel Sauce:
2 cups milk
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or to taste
For Topping (optional):
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup prepared fine bread crumbs
Cut the eggplants crosswise into 1/2 inch slices and place on a large platter. Sprinkle with salt, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse the slices and drain.
Heat the milk in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic, and bring just to a boil. Turn off the heat and let sit for 30 minutes to infuse. Strain, reserving the milk.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, and saute over medium-high heat until lightly golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the ground beef, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, cinnamon, herbs, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stirring occasionally, cook until all of the beef is browned, about 11 minutes longer. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil in a large saute pan and add floured eggplant slices in a single layer. Saute over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until just tender and lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Do the same with rest of the eggplant slices, adding remaining oil as needed. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Heat the butter in a saucepan and when melted, add the flour, stirring constantly over low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually add the infused milk and when completely blended in, bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring. When the sauce thickens, remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and cheese. Whisk in the eggs, and season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
Line a large lightly oiled casserole or ovenproof baking dish with one-third of the cooked eggplant and arrange an even layer of one-third of the beef mixture on top. Cover with one-third of the sauce. Arrange another layer of each, and then a third and final layer, ending with the sauce.
Heat the butter over medium heat in a saute pan and when melted, add the bread crumbs. Stir together over medium heat until thoroughly combined. Remove from the heat and sprinkle evenly over the top of the moussaka. Cover the casserole (use foil if necessary, but make sure it is not touching the topping) and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the topping is a dark golden brown; take care that it does not burn. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and serve.