This dish is wonderfully satisfying. A simpler version of the classic greek moussaka, it features a fantastic sauce, which more than makes up for the removal of the eggplant. With a bit of ahead planning, you can put it together even on a week night. Make the double batch of the sauce and freeze half of it for other uses -- it will work wonders on lasagna, over spaghetti, or anything else that requires a robust meat-based sauce. —Eat Already!
- Serves 8
- Bolognese Sauce (double batch)
cooking fat (I used tallow)
ground lamb or beef
tomato paste (8 oz)
full-bodied red wine
few sprigs of fresh thyme
salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste
ground cumin (optional)
ground cloves (optional)
- Custard, Layering and Topping (for one pie)
half-and-half, or a 50/50 mix of cream and milk
grated cheese, such as Pecorino, Romano, Parmesan, or crumbled Feta
potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8" thick
- Make mirepoix (flavor base). Chop carrots, onions, celery and garlic finely. Heat the cooking fat in a Dutch oven over medium-low. Add vegetables, sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over and saute for full 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables lose their color and brown nicely. Flavors will be very prominent and rich. It pays off to take care and time at this phase as vegetables will lend their aroma and flavor to everything else.
- Add ground meat at this point, breaking it down with a spatula and combining with the mirepoix. Sprinkle a bit more salt and pepper over, and cook slowly, until most of the juices evaporate and meat is nicely browned. 10-12 minutes is a must.
- Add tomato paste and stir it in thoroughly. Cook for another 4-5 minutes or so.
- Add red wine. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a spatula to deglaze. Stir well, and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add just enough water to cover the meat, toss in thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Add cumin and cloves if desire.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat to very low, check for seasoning and correct if needed.
- Simmer, uncovered, for at least 1-1/2 to 2 hrs, stirring occasionally, until sauce becomes thick, rich, and turns burgundy-brown in color. The final sauce should be about the thickness of pancake batter, rich but not greasy, all flavors well developed and blended. This is the state that only can be described as “you’ll know when it’s done, because you won’t be able to put the spoon down tasting it”.Just a little reminder, this batch of sauce is double size, so if you are not planning on using the entire batch, divide it in half and reserve one half for other time.
- Cover peeled and sliced potatoes with cold water in a pan, bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes.
- Drain potatoes immediately and rinse in cold running water to prevent further cooking.
- Grease a lasagna pan or a 9×13? casserole dish with cooking fat on the bottom and sides.
- Put down the a layer of potatoes, overlapping if needed to cover the bottom completely.
- Sprinkle salt and fresh ground pepper over the potatoes.
- Pour down half of the Bolognese over the potatoes and spread evenly with the back of the ladle.
- Repeat steps 11-12-13, then 11-12 again.
- Prepare the custard mix by whisking the eggs and half-and-half in a bowl.
- Pour the custard mix over the pie evenly distributing it all over.
- Spread the bread crumbs and the cheese over the top.
- Bake Moussaka at 375F for about 50 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through (fork tender) and top is nicely browned. Let stand for 10 minutes out of the oven before serving.