Sunday, October 10, 2010


About a year ago, my boyfriend introduced me "Greektown" in Chicago and took me to this fabulous restaurant called Pegasus. I couldn't pronounce one thing on the menu! Greek food to me was kebabs, falafel, and gyros. Luckily, he knew what he was doing and ordered for us.

When the food finally arrived, I was blown away by one dish in particular: the moussaka. Moussaka is a dish based on ground meat and eggplant layered with a bechamel sauce. It...was...unbelievable. So unexpected, so unassuming, and oh so wonderful. I had never had such flavors present in a meat dish before. It reminded me of Christmas. From then on, I have ordered moussaka at every Greek restaurant I go to, but nothing compares to the one at Pegasus....

...until now. I have been experimenting with different dishes over the summer, but this one seemed the most daunting. I ended up using two different recipes for reference, which can be found here and here. It came out great! It did not look as pretty as Pegasus' dish, but the familiar flavors were all there. It's just so good. :)

(adapted from the Gastronomer's Guide to Moussaka)


For the eggplant layers:

  • 3 long globe eggplants
  • coarse sea salt (I used Kosher)
  • olive oil (~1/3 - 1/2 cup)
For the meat filling:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I used around 5-6 cloves because I love garlic)
  • 1 pound ground turkey (It's traditional to use beef or lamb, but I had turkey on hand)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used fresh crushed grape tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
For the béchamel sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 6 ounces pecorino Romano, grated

To make the eggplant layers, cut off ends and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Liberally salt both sides and let stand in a colander set over the sink for at least 30 minutes. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink so that excess moisture can be drawn out. Rinse with water and pat dry.

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan on medium-high. Fry eggplant slices for 3 to 5 minutes per side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the meat filling, heat the butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook until brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes, tomato paste and cinnamon. Simmer until liquid has reduced, about 15-20 minutes. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

To make the béchamel, melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.
Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.
Add half the grated cheese and continue to whisk until melted. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and white pepper.
To assemble, layer the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch greased baking dish with the eggplant slices, making sure to overlap edges. Spread with half the meat mixture. Add another layer of eggplant slices and spread with the remaining meat mixture. Cover with remaining eggplant slices. Spread with half the béchamel and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake from 30 to 40 minutes until bubbling around the edges of the pan. Remove and let cool for 30 minutes. Serve squares with remaining béchamel sauce and either homemade or store-bought marinara sauce on the side. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Before the oven.

And after.


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