KATERINA'S MOUTHWATERING MOUSSAKA
Taverna Giannoula, Thessaloniki, Greece
Makes enough for 16 large servings, using the generous cut served in the restaurant. For smaller crowds, reduce the proportions in half and enjoy the leftovers (if any).
1 lg. onion, grated
1 kilo of ground beef
10 to 12 eggplants (aubergines)
12 to 15 large potatoes
Salt to taste
250 grams butter
250 grams white flour
3 liters fresh milk
Salt to taste
90 grams hard white cheese such as Parmesean
Brown the onion in plenty of olive oil in a skillet. Puree the tomatoes and strain to remove skin and seeds, which are “not good for the stomach,” says Stavros. Add the meat to the onion, brown it, breaking it up so there are not clumps, then mix in the tomatoes. Add salt to taste.
Meanwhile, peel the eggplants (aubergines), leaving some strips of skin. “This keeps the aubergines together,” Stavros says. “Otherwise they will melt.” Slice eggplants length-wise and fry in plenty of sunflower oil. “It is best the oil for the aubergines is very hot,” Stavros suggests. “It absorbs more slowly.”
Peel and wash the potatoes, slice thin, put in a deep fryer (or in frying pan with plenty of oil). Salt potatoes and eggplant to taste. When they are cooked, remove them from the oil. Grease the bottom of a 35 x 40 cm (14 x 16 inch) pan with olive oil. Layer as follows: potatoes, eggplant, meat, potatoes, eggplant. Top with béchamel sauce dusted with grated cheese.
To make the béchamel sauce, mix a roux of flour and butter. Warm the milk in a separate pan. Add milk to the roux and whisk continuously 20 minutes or until thickened. Pour into pan, smooth, dust with cheese. Cook 50 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit), or until lightly browned. Wait at least 20 minutes, preferably 50, so the béchamel sauce has time to set before serving. If you can’t wait quite that long, don’t worry, a half-melted topping looks messier but still tastes heavenly.
For more, see my post: Mysteries of Moussaka, Revealed
I’m constantly collecting recipes as part of Our Mediterranean Comfort Food Tour. I take extensive notes, film every bit of the process I can, and review the details with the chef. I strive for accuracy, but as you can see from the videos, measurements are usually by eye, and the ingredients may be subtly different than what we find at home. Since I’m on the road, I have not had the opportunity to test any of these recipes in my own kitchen. If you do try a recipe and have comments or suggestions for refining it, please let me know.