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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Potato Moussaka

Reference for those who may not know what Moussaka is....

Moussaka is basically a lasagna, except that the name allows for this "lasagna" to be created in a variety of new and exciting ways.  It is basically a product of the Balkan states and Southeastern Europe.... with Greece being the well known centerpoint.  I grew up with many Greek Relatives and a household full of scents and smells of foods that took pretty much an entire day to assemble and food was ALWAYS a counterpoint of every family gathering.. There are Greek versions which utilize eggplant.....and, for those, like me who can tolerate eggplant but would prefer something else.... versions which use potato....  I offer this more obscure latter version for your consideration.... Please note... you can vary most of these ingredients, omit, add or do whatever you want.....and it can become your own personal creation..... like mine was with bacon!

Adaptations by:  Christen Bustani

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As usual.... most recipes from Greece and much of Europe and the Middle East take about a half a lifetime to create.... This is actually a LOT easier than traditional Moussaka to make..... so NO complaints.... and it beats the heck out of just having a bowl of Mac and Cheese so go try this!

OK....  Here we go.....

Ingredients:

  • 1 Large Onion
  • 2 Large Carrots
  • 3 Stalks of celery
  • 8-12 oz of mushrooms, chopped finely (optional)
  • 3-4 cloves of Garlic (more if you like....or less if you don't)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Butter (no margarine.... you can't brown veggies with margarine)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil  (you can use Grape Seed oil as a good substititue...but nothing other than these)
  • 1.5 - 2 pounds of your favorite style sausages.   I used lowfat Italian Turken Sausages for mine.
  • A Package of bacon.  I used turkey bacon which was super low fat and lower cholesterol
  • 1 cup of tomato paste
  • 2 cups of Merlot Wine
  • A sprinkling of Thyme
  • 2-3 Bay Leaves
  • Pepper and optional salt for taste
  • 3 pounds of potatoes..... more is better than less so make enough!


Custard Layer:

  • 3 large eggs (or 3/4 cup of no cholesterol egg beaters....which is what I used)
  • About a 1/2 cup or even a bit more of your favorite cheeses, shredded....  ( I like to combine fat free Feta, 4 cheese Mexican and some sharp Cheddar to make this mix)
  • about a half cup of either.... milk and cream mixed, lowfat milk, sour cream or sour cream and yogurt.  You can go with whatever you want here as it becomes more creamy with the increased fat.  I went with non-fat milk alone.... healthier but not as rich.
  • 1/4 cup of Panko bread crumbs.


Chop up the carrots, celery, onions and the garlic into fine pieces.  Melt the butter and olive oil in a large dutch oven and add them vegetables over a medium heat (not too high!!!).  The object here is to allow the vegetables to cook and render their flavor, but not too quickly as they won't release their full potential if you rush..... (yes I've tried!)  Keep things covered when not stirring through this and the next few steps.....

Add a spritz of pepper and optional salt to the mix and stir regularly for about 15 minutes as this sautes.

Vegetables will be about ready in 15 minutes when they lose their color and become somewhat transparent..  Slice up the sausages into tiny bits and do the same with the bacon.  smaller is better here to mix those flavors.  Add the meat to the mix.

Add the mushrooms to the mix right after you add the meat.

Stir this regularly and continue to cook for another 10-12 minutes

Add the tomato paste and stir that in.  Cook for another 5 minutes

Add your red wine and stir that well, being sure to scrape up what goodness may lay on the bottom of the pan - cook and stir this for another 5 minutes.

Now add your thyme and bay leaves to the mix, up the temperature to a boil.  Once boiling, turn down the heat to VERY low and simmer this whole thing uncovered for the next 1.5 hours.  Stir it occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking.

While this sauce (which is OUT of this world) is going, make your potatoes.

Peel and slice thinly all those potatoes.  You'll feel like you are doing KP duty for the mess hall but this needs to be done.

Add the sliced potatoes to a pot of water and bring to a boil.  Cook at a boil for about 4 minutes and then rinse these under cold water to drain the starch and to stop the cooking process cold.  You don't want your potatoes fully cooked.... They will do that later in the oven when you assemble this beast!

When your sauce has boiled down and thickened, you KNOW it's time to move on.  Taste it to be sure and likely you won't be able to stop tasting it..... (my problem apparently)

Grease a Lasagna pan (mine was about 9"x13" but make sure it is deep enough for the layers we are about to create!  I used a bit of olive oil rubbed into the glass dish for mine.

Place down a layer of potatoes (make sure your bottom layer covers the bottom of the pan, then a layer of sauce.

Optional.... You may want to lay out a layer of shredded cheese on top of the sauce.

Lay down another layer of potatos and then sauce

Add one more layer of potatoes to the top.

Now it's time to make the top level of sauce!

Mix the eggs (or egg beaters) with the cheese and the Panko and the liquid (milk, sour cream, cream, yogurt) and then drizzle this all over the top for the crust.  It will harden into a layer of delicious goodness while it cooks!

Bake this at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes covered lightly with foil then remove the foil and broil under low broil for about 5 minutes.... but WATCH it so it gets nice and crispy to your liking and NOT burned.

Take this out of the oven and let it cool for at least a half hour.  Seriously, if you rush this part (like I have done), you will end up with a glob on your plate.  You really need to let this cool and harden and set up nicely.  It pays off.  Go do the dishes or something!

Enjoy..... Either you have completed your masterpiece or I have carpal tunnel from writing this up.... probably both.



Finished product!
Finished product!

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