Moussaka. The name screams “girly boy.” I mean lets be real — no self respecting mysogynist would be caught dead eating something with eggplants and raisins. However, in our constant battle with health vs. waist-wealth, the Cosmic Chef and I’ve recently decided to go gluten-free for as long as possible, and moussaka is basically like a lasagna without the noodles!
For this moussaka, I went out and got some khashi (goat-meat) as lamb wasn’t readily available, and I wanted to do something different from your usual beef. I asked the Bengal Meat butchers in Unimart to grind some fresh goat meat for me. But in the end, you couldn’t really tell the difference, which may be a positive for those of you who don’t like goat/lamb. Me, I would have liked a bit more goat-y flavor, but I guess you can’t expect more with such a heavy tomato-based sauce.
So I was severely jet-lagged, so I asked my brother-in-law Chef Adman to help me with this one. He basically made the meat sauce, and I came in in the end to put everything together. After heating 1 tbsp of the oil in a sauce-pan, the mincemeat was browned for a few minutes, along with the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. The meat was then drained of fat.
Chef Adman then added the rest of the oil to the pan and sauteed up the onions and peppers for about 3-5 minutes, until soft. At this point he added the garlic and serrano chili, cooked for a minute, then added the tomato paste and sauteed for an additional minute. He then returned the meat to the pan and added the red wine, simmering until the wine evaporated completely — about 5 minutes. Now he added the tomato puree and the currants (which had been soaking in warm water for 30 minutes), and reduced the heat and simmered for about 30 minutes. At that point he added the oregano and parsley, seasoned to taste, and turned off the heat.
Now it was my turn to get over my hangover (did I say jet-lag?) and do the rest! I heated the vegetable oil in a frying pan, and while it was getting good and hot, I seasoned the eggplant slices on both sides with salt and pepper. I placed the eggplant slices in batches (about 3-4) into the pan and sauteed on both sides for about 2-3 minutes a side, placing them on a paper towel once done. Make sure you make extra eggplant slices, just in case — you’re going to have to fill two full rows of your baking dish — the first time I ran out and had to make more, and it was quite annoying.
So here’s the gluten free part of this dish. Bechamel usually has flour, but I managed to substitute arrowroot as the thickening agent and it worked out quite nicely in the end. First I melted the butter in a saucepan, and then added the arrowroot, whisking constantly to prevent clumping. The milk was the next to go in, and the vigorous whisking continued. Don’t get discouraged if it starts clumping up — just REDUCE the heat and keep whisking. The bay leaf, salt and pepper, and nutmeg were added, and the whisking continued. It took a good 3-5 minutes of constant whisking over very low heat to get the texture nice and creamy, at which point the bay leaf was discarded, and the sauce taken off the heat and cooled for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, I whisked together the egg yolks, goat cheese and lemon zest (or lime in my case), and then added to the bechamel sauce until the whole mixture was nice and smooth. Voila!
So now all the components were done and ready for assembly. I preheated the oven to 225 Celsius, and in a 9×12 casserole dish, I layered the eggplants in a layer on the bottom, and then covered with about half the meat sauce. Another eggplant layer went in followed by another meat layer. Finally, I spooned the bechamel evenly over the top and then sprinkled generously with the romano (you can substitute parmesan). In went the casserole dish into the oven, for about 40-50 minutes (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn). Once its done, you can top it with parsley, let it cool slightly, and serve!
1/4 cup dried raisins
1/4 cup Greek extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound ground lamb/goat/beef
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, cored, and thinly sliced
1 serrano chile, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 (28-ounce can) plum tomatoes, pureed until smooth with their juices
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut crosswise into 14-thick slices
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup soft goat cheese
1 cup grated Romano