Sunday, November 21, 2010

Grecian Moussaka

An individual size portion presentation of a Grecian moussaka!
      There are many different versions of Moussaka in mediterranean and middle eastern countries.  Today's moussaka recipe is one of many modern Greek versions of Moussaka that started in the 1920's and is still popular today.  Modern Grecian moussaka has 3 main ingredients in the layers.  The top layer is an egg custard that usually has feta cheese in the recipe.
     Moussaka originated in old Arabic cuisine and the recipe spread to Turkey, Greece, the Balkans and eastern europe.  Egypt also has their own version of moussaka that has chickpeas in the recipe.
     I decided to create a free standing moussaka with a pop ring mold, instead of the old fashioned casserole style moussaka for this recipe.  I used a small five inch wide pop ring cheese cake mold to make this free standing mousaka.  If you have no pop ring mold that is this small, then this recipe can still be made the conventional way in a small casserole dish.
     Grecian Spice Moussaka Tomato Sauce:
     This recipe makes enough sauce for the assembly of the moussaka and for later when saucing the plate!
     Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 4 cloves of minced garlic.
     Saute till the garlic becomes a golden color.
     Add 12 ounces of tomato puree.
     Add 2 chopped fresh plum tomatoes.
     Add 3 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of fennel seed.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Simmer and stir the sauce, till the flavors meld and a thin tomato sauce is formed.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Ground Lamb For Moussaka:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 small splash of olive oil.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 6 ounces od ground lamb.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Saute the ground lamb, till it becomes browned and fully cooked.  Be sure to break up any clumps of the ground lamb.
     Set the cooked ground lamb aside.

     Feta Bechamel Moussaka Topping:
     For this recipe, the white roux is made with olive oil instead of butter.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring.
     Stir untill the roux becomes smooth and "white" colored.
     Add 1/2 cup of milk while stirring.
     When the roux thickens the milk, add a splash of cream.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk the sauce.
     Simmer and reduce, till a heavy bechamel sauce is formed.  (The bechamel should have a heavy thick cream sauce consistency.)
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of feta cheese.
     Whisk till the cheese blends into the bechamel.
     Remove the sauce from the heat.
     Add 1 whisked egg, while constantly stirring.
     Set the sauce aside.
     Grecian Moussaka:
     Place an oiled 5" wide pop ring mold on a baking pan.  (Use a small casserole dish if no small pop ring mold is available.
     Select 1 medium size eggplant that is no wider than the pop ring mold.
     Cut the eggplant into thin slices.  (Leave the skin on the eggplant.)
     Alternately thin layers of these ingredients inside the pop ring mold in this order:
     -  thin sliced eggplant
     - the reserved sauteed ground lamb
     - the Grecian spice moussaka tomato sauce.
     The ring mold will keep the stacked layers molded in round shape.  You can stack a second ring molds on top of the first ring mold to make a tall moussaka.  Leave the ring molds in place during baking.
     Make as many layers of the ingredients as you wish, but leave about 1/2 inch at the top of the ring mold stack empty, so there is room for the bechamel topping!
     Be sure that the top layer of the moussaka ingredients are pressed against the inside of the ring mold, so the feta bechamel does not leak past the top layer.
     Pour the thick feta cheese bechamel sauce into the remaining 1/2 inch of room on the top of the ring mold.  (This sauce will rise and expand like an egg custard when it is baked.)
     Place the baking pan and moussaka in a 300 degree oven.
     Bake for more than an hour, till the custard topping turns a golden brown color. 
     Remove the moussaka from the oven and let it rest for 2 minutes.
     Use a paring knife to loosen the moussaka edges from the ring molds.
     Slide the moussaka and ring molds together as one, onto a plate with a spatula.
     Lift or pop the ring molds and remove them.
     Spoon the Grecian spice moussaka tomato sauce around the moussaka on the plate.  
     The flavor of Moussaka is so tasty!  The slow baking method keeps the ingredients tender and it gives time for the spice flavors to meld.  Of course, have a bottle of Ouzo ready for when it is time to dance on the tables after dinner!

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