My Mom’s Luscious Potato Moussaka, Jewish Style

November 19, 2013
Author Notes

My mom’s potato moussaka is unique, amazingly tasty, and makes a luscious entrée or hot appetizer for a holiday feast; it’s also perfect for a Sunday family dinner. —Kukla

Test Kitchen Notes

There is a reason that beloved family recipes are often considered comfort food. Lovingly prepared with just the right amounts of flavor, they instantly earn a place in your heart and have your family clamoring for more. This dish is no exception. The sauce's bold layers of flavors -- savory, sweet, sour -- are perfectly balanced with the potatoes. By lightly browning rather than boiling them, they didn't get too mushy while baking. If you must substitute the fresh dill for dried, be sure to adjust the quantity appropriately. An 8 x 8-inch pan was too small -- a 9 x 13 was just right, and it matched the serving portions in the recipe. I suggest browning the meat before adding it to the sauce. —Anne

  • Makes 8 to 10 generous portions
  • For the tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts, cut in half lengthwise, well washed and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 2 celery ribs, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored, and diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes, drained, or 4 large plum tomatoes, quickly blanched, peeled, and diced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons each chopped fresh parsley leaves and dill fronds
  • Preparing potatoes, finishing meat sauce, layering and baking
  • 4 large Idaho baking potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices, and kept in a bowl of cold water to prevent oxidation
  • Oil for sautéing potatoes
  • 1 pound beef chuck or sirloin, coarsely ground
  • 1/2 cup good quality white wine
  • 1/2 cup homemade or low-sodium store-bought beef or chicken stock
  • 3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
In This Recipe
  1. For the tomato sauce
  2. To make the sauce: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes; cook stirring often, over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add carrots, bell pepper and celery; cook for a few more minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring often; then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and mix in the parsley and dill. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  1. Preparing potatoes, finishing meat sauce, layering and baking
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an 9 x 9-inches or 9 x 13- inches baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground beef and tomato sauce; taste for seasoning and add what is needed. Set aside.
  4. Remove the potatoes from the water and dry them well with paper towels. Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet and sauté the potatoes over medium heat for a few minutes on both sides, just to soften and lightly brown them. You will need to do this in batches. Set aside on platters lined with paper towels and sprinkle with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with a third of the potato slices; then spread on half of the meat sauce. Repeat this process one more time. Arrange the remaining potato slices,then evenly pour the wine and then the stock over the top. The liquid will almost cover the top potato layer.
  6. Tightly cover the baking dish with foil; place on a rimmed cookie sheet and transfer to the oven.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes, then take off the foil and continue baking until the liquid is absorbed and the top potato layer is starting to brown, about 15 more minutes.
  8. In a medium mixing bowl beat the eggs with a pinch of salt until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Pour over the moussaka and bake, uncovered, until the top is golden brown and crispy. Let the moussaka cool for at least 20 minutes; then slice, serve and enjoy.
  9. Note: You can also use this recipe for an eggplant moussaka, and only change the spices in the tomato-meat sauce to Middle Eastern ones such as cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cayenne pepper.

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