I first made this for a Thanksgiving potluck, from a recipe taken from Saveur magazine. When everyone's eyebrows shot up after taking their first bites, I knew I had a keeper. Not one to follow recipes to the absolute letter (unless I'm at work, because that's when it counts), the recipe has been tweaked a bit over time to suit my budget, time, tastes or energy levels. Beef subs in for lamb when the price is right, and I prefer to roast my vegetables the day before so I'm not standing guard in front of the stove. If I have tomato paste, that gets thrown into the mix. This is a really humble, accommodating dish. It's a bonus that it feeds so many. —Elizabeth Rex
eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/4" slices
large russet potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4" slices
ground lamb or beef
medium onion, small dice
cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons
tomato paste (optional)
red wine (I used Syrah, feel free to play around)
28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay eggplant slices on a baking tray (overlap is okay). Season with salt and pepper. Lay potato slices on another baking tray, same treatment. Roast in oven for at least 40 minutes, flipping once, til cooked through. If they're a little dried out, even better. Remove and set aside. This step can be done up to 2 days in advance.
Meanwhile, put currants in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soften for 20 minutes. Then drain and set aside.
Meanwhile part 2: In a heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat, cook the ground meat, stirring and breaking up the clumps until browned. Transfer to a strainer set in a bowl and drain. Return the pot to the heat and add the onions, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, allspice, cloves, and bay leaf, cooking until the onions are softened. Add tomato paste if you're using it. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated. Add tomatoes, currants, and the reserved ground meat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer; partially covered, until thickened, about 40 minutes and up to 1 hour and 15 minutes. (You're looking for a pretty thick meat sauce, where most of the liquid has pretty much reduced.) Remove from heat, and discard bay leaf.
Make a bechamel sauce: heat butter in a small sauce pot over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until smooth and the raw flour smell is gone, about 2 minutes. Whisk in milk in a steady stream and add nutmeg (bonus points if the milk has been warmed up a bit). Cook, whisking often, until smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper, let cool for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and yogurt together, then add into bechamel, whisking until smooth.
Assemble the moussaka: Turn up the oven to 400°F. In a 9 x 13 baking pan, lay down potatoes slices along the bottom. Place eggplant slices on top. Cover with meat sauce. Pour the bechamel over the meat sauce and spread evenly. Sprinkle the top evenly with grated cheese and bake until browned and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving.