Thursday, August 30, 2012

The best Moussaka!

I don't know why it's so hard for me to keep this blog up to date. I cook and bake all. the. freaking. time. However, I also do another blog (which takes priority) and I write blog posts for a part-time job. My creative juices get sapped I think!

Anyway, the other day, I made the most fabulous moussaka. It was so good, my mother in law didn't say a word about it once she took a bite. She did when I was making it, "Oh, you aren't using bread crumbs. You make yours different." When she ate it though she was quiet. Normally? She would say, "This is OK, but..." or "The best moussaka I've ever had was..." or "This isn't like Maka (her grandmother) used to make."

If she's quiet, she loves it but doesn't want to say it - especially if it's something she has made in the past and I can make better. Which, is most things. And I'm not trying to be all snooty, but... If a person doesn't like to cook and doesn't cook often, they are not going to be a good cook. You have to love to create in the kitchen to make food sing. Also remember in the nearly 3 years we've lived together, she's made ONE meal in that entire time. ONE... and that was 2.5 years ago. She simply hates to cook.

So, back to the moussaka. I learned of moussaka from my husband who made it for me when we were dating. He used his mother's recipe. It is one of the few things he ever cooked for me. I think I can list on one hand what he has cooked for me in the 19.5 years we've been dating/married - Ramen noodles with tofu, scrambled eggs, an omelette, crepes, and moussaka and all of that hasn't been in the last 15 years. Probably not in the last 18 years.

The recipe he used, my mother in law uses and the one I have made myself is this:

1 lbs. ground beef
1 large eggplant, skinned and sliced length-wise, 1/4 inch thick.
2 eggs
2 cups sour cream
flour for dredging
2 eggs for dredging
bread crumbs for dredging
cooking oil
salt to taste

In that recipe, you would peel the eggplant, slice it, sprinkle it with salt and then let it sit for 15-20 minutes to get the bitterness out of the eggplant. Rinse off the eggplant, pat it dry and then dredge it in flour, then in the beaten eggs, and then in the bread crumbs and then fry in cooking oil. Drain the cooked eggplants on paper towels.

Cook the ground beef and drain. Layer the eggplants with the meat. Combine the two eggs with the sour cream, salt, and then pour over the top of the eggplants. Bake in an oven for 30 minutes at 350.

That's it. It's "OK", but it doesn't sing. Plain hamburger? That's flavorless!

So, after a couple times of making it, I added onion to the hamburger when cooking and that helped a lot, but it still wasn't great.

Over time, I had different moussakas at restaurants, usually Greek restaurants. They were so flavorful and so much more substantial. I realized that the recipe I had was just blah, so I rarely made it.

Well, the other day I was out and saw eggplants were on sale. I got the idea to make moussaka. I came home and looked up a bunch of recipes in Croatian/Bosnian cookbooks I have and at recipes online. I didn't want to totally switch things up to make it a Greek moussaka versus a Bosnian/Croatian moussaka, but I knew I needed a better recipe or ideas.

In the end, I combined several recipes and added some more of my own ideas - keeping some of the traditional way of making moussaka in Croatia.

The new recipe is as follows:

2 lbs of ground lamb
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
3 large eggplants, sliced length-wise in 1/4 inch thick slices
Eggs for dredging (I used 8)
Flour for dredging
Light Olive Oil for frying
4 eggs
1 large container of sour cream (about 4 cups)
Salt to taste

I started with washing and trimming the eggplants. I left the skins on (they give a nice flavor). I got my large roasting pan 16x20. I sliced the eggplants in 1/4 inch slices and salted them, layering them in the pan. I let this sit for 20 minutes. I then rinsed off the salt and patted the eggplants dry.

I then dredged the eggplants in flour with a bit of salt, then dredged them in the beaten eggs. I fried the eggplants on medium heat until they were soft and the crust was golden. I drained them on paper towels.

I then browned the meat with the chopped onions. When the onions were translucent, I added the garlic and cooked a few more minutes. I then added the spices and stirred them in. You might be thinking cinnamon and nutmeg? Yep... it goes great with lamb... DON'T add those if you are cooking with ground beef! (but you can add more Hungarian paprika and keep the pepper if you opt for beef - but seriously, use lamb - it's more traditional and adds so much more flavor and a better texture.)

In a mixing bowl, I combined the sour cream and eggs and a bit of salt.

I took my large roasting pan and greased it with a bit of olive oil. I covered the bottom of the pan with the first layer of eggplants. Then added a meat layer. I repeated this. When I had half the layers done, I added 1/3 of the sour cream mixture over the layer. I added 2 more eggplant and meat layers, ending with a layer of eggplants. I then topped the dish with the remaining sour cream mixture - making sure to spread the mixture across the entire top.

I baked it for 40 minutes at 350. It should be bubbling and the top slightly golden. Serve with a tomato salad.

And wow... it cut nice. It was smooth. It was good! It was so good my husband said, "You can make this for me for my birthday (which isn't until January!). I would call that a huge success.

This makes a really big pan of it. So, you can halve the recipe easily. I just make a big pan as it freezes so well. We ate it that night (four adults) and then I froze 2 more full meals and there was still enough for lunch for 2 the next day.

Is it low fat? No way. Is it low carb? Not too bad actually. Is it yummy? One of my favorites.  As I was eating it, I was thinking to myself, "This is as good as I would get in any restaurant." And I think that's true. I finally found the recipe!

I didn't think to take pictures of the process. I took a couple after we ate as I realized, "I need to write this down as I'm making this again and I should share it!"

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the recipe! Actually beef goes well with nutmeg and cinnamon. Many Indonesian recipes added them with beef too