Aglaia’s Mousaka

My Mousaka with layers of eggplants, potatoes, and peppers, is topped with yogurt and olive oil béchamel.   Read HERE the origin of this iconic Greek dish.

Mousakas-pot-CUT-S

I serve large spoonfuls, as with gratin dishes, and not perfectly cut squares. If you prefer a more elegant presentation make it in individual portions. I recently added the spicy and smoky Kea sausage to the lamb, to deepen and enriche the flavor.

Makes 6 servings

2 large eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds) sliced lengthwise to 1/4 inch slices
Sea salt
Olive oil
1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch slices
3 large green bell peppers, seeded, quartered lengthwise and cut to about 1 inch pieces
1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
4 ounces spicy and smoky sausage, crumbled, or 3 ounces bacon, thinly sliced (optional)
1 1/2 cup chopped onions
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/3 cup red wine
1 pound red ripe tomatoes peeled and chopped or 2 1/2 cups imported tinned chopped tomatoes with their juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 pinches allspice and freshly ground nutmeg

Yogurt and olive oil béchamel

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups full- fat plain yogurt
1 cup grated aged cheddar or Gruyere cheese, more for sprinkling the top
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Salt the eggplant slices and place them in a colander. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile heat about 1 inch olive oil in a deep heavy skillet and fry the potato slices briefly, without letting them cook through. Alternatively you can brush the potato slices with olive oil and bake under the broiler. Layer the potatoes at the bottom of six individual glass or ceramic oven proof dishes, at least 2 1/2 inches deep (or a rectangular 9X12-inch dish).

1-mousaka-potatoes

1.    Broil the sliced potatoes, brushing with olive oil on both sides, or you can shallow fry them.

Sauté the peppers in olive oil (the same you used for the potatoes, if you fried them) stirring often, until they start to color, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.

2-mousaka-potatoes

2.    Arrange the potatoes at the bottom of the pan.

Keep only 1/3 cup of the frying oil in the pan; pour the rest in a bowl and reserve. Sautee the ground lamb and sausage or bacon, if using, in the olive oil, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Add the onions and continue to sauté, stirring, for another 8 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add the Aleppo or red pepper flakes, the red wine, the currents, if using, and the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken. Add salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg to taste, and remove from the heat.

3-mousaka-eggplants

3.  Grill the eggplant slices and arrange over the potatoes.

Wipe the eggplant slices with paper towels and line on a baking sheet. Brush both sides with the reserved oil, and grill under the broiler, turning once, until golden on both sides.

Preheat the oven to 400.

4-mousaka-peppers

4.    Make one more layer with the fried bell peppers.

Arrange the eggplant slices over the potatoes on the baking dish (or dishes). It doesn’t matter if they overlap. Add the sautéed peppers over the eggplants and top with the lamb and tomato sauce.

5-mousaka-meat

5.    Over the vegetables pour the meat and tomato mixture.

To make the bechamel topping, whisk together the olive oil and flour, over moderate heat until frothy, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, whisk a bit longer and add the cold milk and yogurt. Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and don’t worry if the mixture looks lumpy. It will become smooth as it cooks and thickens. When it starts to boil, remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, salt and pepper.

6-mousaka-bechamel

6.    Top with the olive-oil-and- yogurt béchamel sauce.

Pour the sauce over the meat or about 1/2 cup sauce over each of the 6 baking dishes, top with some cheese, and bake for about 45 minutes until bubbly (individual portions need about 30 minutes). If you like to further brown the top, place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.

7-mousaka-baked
7.    Bake for about 45 minutes.
8.    Serve large tablespoons, making sure each portion has vegetables, meat and topping.

Serve hot or warm.

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