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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shortcut Authentic

I have a couple Greek cookbooks but I have to admit that it always seems like too much of a project to just whip something up for dinner.   Most often, when I have a hankering for pastisio or moussaka, we just go out and find it in a restaurant.  The problem is that there aren't an abundance of great Greek restaurants in Pittsburgh so the short answer is that we rarely have Greek food.  And that's too bad because I like it.

But the other day my Greek food prayers were answered.  A somewhat shortened version of moussaka appeared in Melissa Clark's column in the New York Times.  In fact, the title of the recipe was Shortcut Moussaka.

Shortcut is a relative term when it comes to Greek food.  What "shortcut" cut meant in this case was that instead of it taking all day to make the moussaka, it only took half the day.  Let's face it, it took a really long time for Greek civilization to grow and develop, why should their cuisine take less time to prepare.

I love a cooking project so I dove in with enthusiasm.  I chopped, sauteed, roasted, stirred, and sniffed.  I had a sink full of dirty dishes and a tomato splattered stove.  And the time flew because as I said before, I love a cooking project.

The results were well worth the effort.  Maybe it wasn't the most authentic moussaka but it sure was good.  And it took less time than some of the other recipes I've considered.  It was authentic enough for me.

Recipe:  Shortcut Moussaka
(Melissa Clark, New York Times, October 26, 2011)


2 medium eggplant (about 2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup grated kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 pound ground lamb (or beef)
1 very large onion, finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons bread crumbs.


In a colander, toss the eggplant and 1 teaspoon salt. Drain in the sink for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 450 degrees Toss the eggplant with the oil and spread on a large baking sheet. Roast, turning occasionally, until golden and tender, about 40 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Bring 6 cups water, the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes; drain and return potatoes to the warm pot. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and egg yolk. Mash potatoes with milk-egg mixture, 1/2 cup cheese, butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt and nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

In a very large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the lamb, breaking it up with a fork as it cooks. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Push the meat to one side of the skillet and spoon off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet. Add the onions and cinnamon sticks to the skillet. Cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir the lamb back into the onions and add the garlic and ground clove. Cook 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are soft and the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in the eggplant.

Spoon into a 9-inch baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the lamb. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake until top is golden brown and slightly crusty, about 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 servings.

1 comment:

  1. You certainly did a great job with this dish. I see less dining-out in Greek restaurants in your future ;)