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Moussaka--Cook-Off 7

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#31 mizducky

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 11:17 AM

Quick question??? How many of youall slice, salt, then rise and drain your eggies?

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Yes, let's figure this out! I slice, salt, wait, then dab with paper towels. I also only buy what I've been told were male eggplants (no indentation at the base) bc they supposedly have fewer seeds. Anecdotal evidence, always tricky, bears out the effectiveness of these two techniques, but I'd be interested to know what people think.

Just checked the new McGee, and he says that the salting reduces the absorptiveness of eggplant, but as far as reducing bitterness, that probably just reduces "our perception of the alkaloids." I dunno what that means and have to take the dog for a walk, but if someone out there can explain, that'd be swell!

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Alton Brown did a whole episode on eggplant a while back, which among other things covers choosing male over female eggplants, salting, and, to a certain extent, dealing with the alkaloids. The transcript of that episode can be found here.

Brief summary: he does go along with the "male eggplants have fewer seeds" concept. He salts cut-up eggplant mainly to combat the absorptiveness issue. He doesn't ascribe bitterness-removal to the salting process, but says that since a lot of the alkaloids are concentrated in the seeds, a lot of their bitterness can be avoided by picking male eggplants, and younger smaller eggplants (the younger they are, the less time they've had to make seeds).

He also deals in passing with removing alkaloids during a segment on baba ghanouj--he lets his eggplant pulp sit in a colander for awhile after roasting so that the alkaloid-heavy juices can drain off. This kinda suggests to me that the drainage of juices that happens with salted weighted uncooked eggplant slices would also get rid of some alkaloids, but it doesn't look like AB explores that idea.

Meanwhile, I've got an email out to my old school buddy asking about his mom's moussaka recipe. It might be awhile, though, before I hear back from him.

Meanwhile meanwhile, I really want to make this thang with lamb if at all possible, so now I gotta research where the heck to get ground lamb in my corner of the universe. Think I recall seeing that 99 Ranch had some in one of their frozen food cases--kind of odd, considering their huge and very active fresh-meat counter, but on reflection I guess lamb is not that heavily used in far-eastern cuisines. But at least they had some, which is more than I can say for the butcher-less big chain supermarkets.

#32 Chufi

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 11:29 AM

I had some time on my hands so I made papoutsakia for two.

I used Rosemary Barron's recipe. It lists no less than 4 cheeses: cottage cheese, feta and gruyere (substitute for greek graviera) for the bechamel, and Parmesan (substitute for greek kephalotyri) to sprinkle on top.
Her meatsauce is flavored with allspice, rigani (greek oregano), cinnamon, and honey, and cooked down with red wine, fesh tomatoes and stock. The bechamel is lightened with beaten eggs and flavored with nutmeg.

Here are some of the ingredients. I ended up using only feta and parmesan because that's all I had :sad:. I used lamb for the sauce, and both fresh and dried regular oregano to substitute the rigani:
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Here's the sauce bubbling away. A lot of liquid, I cooked it for about 30 minutes without a lid and it ended up nice and thick.
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To make the papoutsakia, I halved the aubergines and fried them in a little bit of oil, cut side down. Then I baked them in the oven for about 15 minutes until they were soft. Then you have to scoop out the flesh. Because the flesh isn't used in this recipe, you have to leave quite a thick wall on the shell, otherwise you have almost no aubergine in the finished dish! One scooped, one waiting:
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Here they are before going into the oven, one is covered with bechamelsauce that has feta, parmesan and nutmeg to flavor, and a very well beaten egg. They are then sprinkled with breadcrumbs and some more parmesan:
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after 30 minutes in the oven:
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Yum!

Notes:
with this dish you don't get the amalgamation of layers and flavors that you get with classic moussaka. And if you don't like aubergine skin, this is not the dish for you.
I think I would like to try it again with all the cheeses Barron suggests. I think the cottagecheese will make the cheesesauce lighter.
Adding the egg to the sauce is a very good idea. The sauce sets to a sort of fluffy custard which is very nice.

#33 KatieLoeb

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 11:50 AM

The moussaka recipe that I use is sort of a compilation from both This Book and This Book. Unfortunately the Secrets of Fat Free Greek Cooking, belongs to a friend so it isn't readily available to me. The lower fat version of Bechamel sauce makes the dish less heavy with no noticeable loss of flavor. I highly recommed both of these books for anyone with a serious Greek cuisine addiction like myself.

The real secrets to my Moussaka are to use half ground lamb and half ground beef, slice the peeled eggplants longways and brush with good fruity olive oil before baking, use Penzey's Vietnamese Cinnamon (very unique flavor), use real Greek Kasseri cheese as well, and make a couple of layers of the baked eggplant and ground meat mixture (like building a lasagna) before pouring on the Bechamel sauce.

Sadly, I never had the sense to write down exactly what it was that SJ Epicurean and I did when we made those two big honking hotel pans of Moussaka for the 2003 Bobolink Farm Potluck. But I think the hints above are the ones that effect the flavor most.

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#34 Jason Perlow

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 12:07 PM

After speaking to our Greek dog groomers today, I was told that for that "extra something", a moussaka meat mixture should be lamb and beef, or lamb and veal, with "some ground pork added". So we bought some ground pork today in addition to ground lamb and ground beef.

We also went to a local Lebanese/Turkish/Egyptian/Greek grocery and purchased some "Seven Spice Mixture" which is used for seasoning various types of meat dishes.
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#35 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 12:16 PM

Chufi, that stuffed eggplant looks excellent. I'd be tempted to make that, except I can't figure out where I could add potatoes! :laugh:

#36 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 12:36 PM

After speaking to our Greek dog groomers today

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:laugh:

What kind of Greek dog do you have? :raz: :laugh:
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#37 Jason Perlow

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 02:05 PM

After speaking to our Greek dog groomers today

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:laugh:

What kind of Greek dog do you have? :raz: :laugh:

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We have two Poodleopolises.
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#38 suzilightning

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 03:20 PM

ok- i'm in - or should i say johnnybird and i are in.

we have the baron book at work and she does suggest some alternatives to lamb(which john won't eat) and eggplant (sorry, guilty as charged here). zucchini and ground beef mixed with pork also potatoes. the bechemal won't be a problem. will serve with a spinach salad and some dry red wine. oops - used the zucchini for dinner tonight so guess it is a trip to the green grocer and, since my butcher isn't open until wednesday to the public, it looks like this will be next friday's meal
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#39 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 03:51 PM

We also went to a local Lebanese/Turkish/Egyptian/Greek  grocery and purchased some "Seven Spice Mixture" which is used for seasoning various types of meat dishes.

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What spices are in that, Jason?
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#40 Jason Perlow

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 04:13 PM

Not entirely sure, although I think cinnamon and allspice are two of them.
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#41 hjshorter

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 04:05 AM

Meanwhile meanwhile, I really want to make this thang with lamb if at all possible, so now I gotta research where the heck to get ground lamb in my corner of the universe. Think I recall seeing that 99 Ranch had some in one of their frozen food cases--kind of odd, considering their huge and very active fresh-meat counter, but on reflection I guess lamb is not that heavily used in far-eastern cuisines. But at least they had some, which is more than I can say for the butcher-less big chain supermarkets.

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Mizducky, can you buy some fresh lamb and have them grind it for you?
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#42 Smithy

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 05:35 AM

Not entirely sure, although I think cinnamon and allspice are two of them.

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My Egyptian cookbook doesn't list a 7-spice mixture, as such, but lists a number of typical combinations for bohar or boharaat, the spice mixture generally used in meat dishes. The author notes that the combination is as individual as the person selling it. Here are a few:
"Boharat" 2T pepper, 1T coriander (seeds), 1T ground cloves, 2T cumin, 1/2t ground cardamom, 1 nutmeg grated, pinch of cinnamon;
"Arabian" 2T allspice, 1T cinnamon, 2t nutmeg, 2t cloves, 1t ginger (optional)
"Kuwaiti" 4t pepper, and 1t each of paprika, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, & cardamom

Do those spices sound more or less like what you have, Jason?

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#43 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 05:40 AM

Not entirely sure, although I think cinnamon and allspice are two of them.

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She also said clove, but it was clear she didn't want to tell us all of them. I think I detect nutmeg. Basically it is a sweet spice blend, powdered.

~~~

Thanks Smithy, great timing. It smells like the Arabian blend, but that's only five, so I'll guess it also has the cardamom and coriander seeds, I don't detect any cumin, paprika or pepper.

Shout out to the Jews: It smells like the spices in the scent box at havdalah. :wink:

Edited by Rachel Perlow, 17 April 2005 - 05:47 AM.


#44 Jason Perlow

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 05:53 AM

http://www.arabicslice.com/spices.html

Mixed Spices (Baharat)

A mixture of spices, which is usually a combination of cloves, cumin, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon and pepper with paprika added for colour. You can purchase Seven Spice meaning Sabah Baharat from most Middle Eastern and Indian Stores.


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#45 bakezoid

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 05:59 AM

How did I miss this cook-off starting?

If I try to decide which version to make, I'll never get to the store to buy the stuff I need today. It's already almost 9 a.m. SO I'll shop for eggplant, potatoes, kasseri cheese and anything else appealing and re-read the posts when I get home. YOu guys are sure to post even more info by then.

Thanks for a fun cooking thing for this afternoon :biggrin:
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#46 Smithy

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 06:08 AM

Not entirely sure, although I think cinnamon and allspice are two of them.

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She also said clove, but it was clear she didn't want to tell us all of them. I think I detect nutmeg. Basically it is a sweet spice blend, powdered.

~~~

Thanks Smithy, great timing. It smells like the Arabian blend, but that's only five, so I'll guess it also has the cardamom and coriander seeds, I don't detect any cumin, paprika or pepper.

Shout out to the Jews: It smells like the spices in the scent box at havdalah. :wink:

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I don't know the scent box at havdalah, but oh, how I love spice markets! At last, some of the grocery stores around here have little stands with packets of spices in small cellophane bags. The smell is wonderful. I think that bodes ill for the longevity of storage in those packages, but I sure do love to stand and sniff.

Hmm, you think no cumin, paprika or pepper, and Jason cited a link listing all three. Looks like you two have some testing and discussion ahead! :raz:

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#47 mizducky

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 04:23 PM

Meanwhile meanwhile, I really want to make this thang with lamb if at all possible, so now I gotta research where the heck to get ground lamb in my corner of the universe. Think I recall seeing that 99 Ranch had some in one of their frozen food cases--kind of odd, considering their huge and very active fresh-meat counter, but on reflection I guess lamb is not that heavily used in far-eastern cuisines. But at least they had some, which is more than I can say for the butcher-less big chain supermarkets.

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Mizducky, can you buy some fresh lamb and have them grind it for you?

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See, that's the thing--*fresh* lamb of *any* sort is just not available at 99 Ranch, period--only the frozen lamb. Meanwhile, the only fresh lamb I've seen at the mainstream supermarkets for a long time now are cryovac packages of whole legs, either with or without the bone, or cryovac packages of shanks. A whole leg is simply way too much for my solo-cook needs let alone my budget, and that's presuming I could persuade the pseudo-butchers at this supermarket to grind it for me (I bet they don't even have a grinder back there anymore, and get instead get in all their meat cuts pre-fabricated from some central commissary).

I've got one more concept to try: finding an independent butcher to sell me just the amount of freshly-ground-to-order lamb that I'd need. This may get interesting because I just Googled and found only three listings for independent butchers in all of San Diego. :sad: I'll check out the nearest of those sometime this week, but if they're a washout then I guess I'm back to the frozen ground lamb at the 99 Ranch.

#48 Susan in FL

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 04:59 PM

I am so amazed that the ground lamb is hard for some of you guys to get, when here in small town Florida where it is often difficult to find certain good ingredients, it's readily available in our Publix. Any idea why that is?
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#49 Jason Perlow

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 05:58 PM

First wave of Mousakka photos:

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Baked Eggplant Cutlets, ready for layering (click for RecipeGullet recipe)

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Meat Sauce -- 2 parts browned Ground lamb, 1 part ground Beef, 1 part ground Pork, drained of excess grease, cooked with sauteed finely chopped onions, in tomato puree and crushed tomatoes, seasoned with oregano, salt, and middle-eastern 7-spice mix (Sabah Baharat). Simmered for about 45 minutes.

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Layering a casserole pan, with cooked sliced potatoes at the bottom, then a layer of sauce, then the baked eggplant rounds on top. Then another layer of sauce and eggplant is added, over which the bechamel is poured.

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A small moussaka, ready for baking.

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Finished moussaka

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In addition to the large black (male) eggplants, we bought some smaller Sicilian Rosa Bianca and Dominican eggplants for stuffing with the meat mixture and bechemel, which we had for dinner tonight. The moussakas will be refrigerated, to allow them to set up and develop flavors for a day or two before eating. Several of them will be frozen for later eating.
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#50 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 08:01 PM

Chufi, thanks so much for the inspiration of the papoutsakia. They were excellent. I didn't top mine with cheese the way you did, but the bread crumb/cheese mixture I topped the moussaka with. Also, I didn't fry the eggplants, I just oiled the pan and baked the halves cut side down for about 30 minutes. And, I didn't scoop out the interior eggplant, I just smooshed it a little and pushed it to the side. Anyway, they were excellent.

A note about male vs female eggplants... In the past I never paid attention to the type of eggplant, but the difference between male and female eggplants is really obvious, at least with the large black kind of eggplant. As someone posted above, the female eggplants are larger with a dimpled blossom end, the male ones are more slender and uniform in diameter, with a smooth blossom end. I made sure to get all male eggplants. Wow! There really is a difference in the amount of seeds, some barely had any seeds, and the flesh was much sweeter. As I post in my eggplant cutlet recipe, I don't bother salting/draining the eggplant and when you eat the cutlets straight, you can really taste the difference.

#51 markovitch

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 08:26 PM

According to the America's Test Kitchen episode I saw on saturday, Eggplants are actually genderless. Seed size has to do with the relative age of the fruit(?)
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#52 Chris Amirault

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 08:35 PM

Hmmm... more support for putting the kaibosh on eggplant sex.

At a Turkish cuisine conference a few years ago (the Turks love eggplant), Paula Wolfert, the author of many cookbooks and an expert on Mediterranean cuisine said, in effect, baloney. Others I’ve consulted or read about seem to concur. In “Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Food Encyclopedia” (Times Books, 1985), the author says he consulted a botanist who pooh poohed the sex theory saying, among other things, that an eggplant has both female and male parts.


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#53 torakris

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 08:37 PM

What kind of cheese is usually used with moussaka?

The Claudia Roden recipe calls for cheddar.
I can't wait to try this, probably Friday as I will going to Costco on Thursday... :biggrin:

Gorgeous pictures Jason!!

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#54 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 08:53 PM

Well maybe they're not male and female, but there were definitely two very different looking types of eggplants in that bin at the store. I don't buy the immature theory because the "male" ones were as long or longer than the "female" ones. Or, maybe they are immature, whatever, they were definitely sweeter and less seedy than the larger/rounder eggplants I'd bought in the past, so go for those.

I posted our recipe on RecipeGullet, if anyone wants to check it out, click.

#55 Jason Perlow

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 08:55 PM

Kris, tonight we used a very sharp grated hard sheeps milk cheese, which I think offsets the richness of the bechamel nicely. You could use Parmigiano Reggiano or a Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano or any hard sharp grating cheese. A sharp feta would probably be good too.
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#56 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 08:57 PM

What kind of cheese is usually used with moussaka?

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I used a sharp, peppered sheeps' milk cheese that sat too long and got pretty hard. We ground it up and used it in the breading for the eggplant cutlets, to flavor the white sauce and with bread crumbs on top. Normally, I'd use parmesean or pecorino romano or even feta, but I wanted to use up that cheese we already had -- it was excellent.

#57 Smithy

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 10:30 PM

Rachel, that looks lovely. I've been experimenting with various ways to cook the eggplant for moussaka, but your way is new to me. Here are the ways I've cooked it before:

Maybe do a salt treatment, or maybe not:
a. Salt the slices, let them sit in a colander for at least a half hour, then rinse and drain; or
b. Soak all in a bowl of salted water, at least 1/2 hour, or a day if I'm busy and distracted; or
c. Neither of the above, no salting beforehand.

I've read that it isn't necessary to salt eggplant if it's going to be roasted or grilled (high-temperature treatment) but that it is necessary to salt and/or soak it to remove bitterness if it's going to be baked, as in moussaka. I haven't tested enough to agree or disagree.

I've also read that salting and soaking the eggplant in water prevents it from soaking up as much oil if you choose to fry it. That does seem to work.

Then cook:
1. (the low-fat way): lay the rounds on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and broil. This goes very, very quickly and requires rapt attention lest you burn it, but it meters the fat in a properly miserly fashion.
2. (the oilier way): fry the eggplant in 1" deep oil. I use a combination of canola and grapeseed oil, the point being to have a high smoke point. I've discovered that if the oil is hot enough the final product isn't really oily.
2a. (an Egyptian modification) my cookbook says to fry the eggplant as above, then rinse it in running water to wash off the excess oil. I haven't tried this method yet.
3. (the oiliest way): barely coat the bottom of a pan with oil, and try to saute the eggplant in it. This is the recommended method from something like The Silver Palate, because they say that eggplant is spongy so you have to be sparing with the oil, but I've never had much success with this. The eggplant always soaks up the oil, and I'm left with a choice between adding more (against recommendations) or cooking the eggplant in a dry skillet.

Until recently I used method 1, broiling, but lately I've taken to doing method 2 (frying in 1" of oil), then placing the cooked eggplant between paper towels to soak up excess oil. The eggplant slices are definitely oilier than by the broiling method, but they're pretty good.

I'm going to try the cutlets soon. That method sounds really good.

Torakris, you can pretty much use your choice of cheeses. Tonight I mixed cheddar and kasseri because I needed to get rid of the kasseri. The kasseri is a sheepy cheese that, by itself, is a bit too sharp for my tastes, but in this sauce, with the rest of the layers, it really does well. I have a note in my cookbook where I mixed cheddar and fontina, most definitely a non-traditional mix, and I loved it.

Photos and recipe to come after I have everything uploaded.

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#58 kanljung

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 03:27 AM

What kind of cheese is usually used with moussaka?

The Claudia Roden recipe calls for cheddar.

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I have another Claudia Roden recipe that suggests a cheese named kefalotiri. It is apparently a greek hard sheeps milk cheese. I will have a go at finding it, but if I'm unsuccesfull, I will go for pecorino romano.

Rachel, your moussaka looks delicious!
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#59 Carlovski

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 05:35 AM

I normally make the stuffed aubergine variation myself - making Moussaka for one is a bit of a pain, but the stuffed aubergine is a lot easier. Usually have a load of the meat sauce left (You can't really make small amounts, and Aubergines don't hold THAT much. Good just with pitta bread though (Especially as it is even better the next day)
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#60 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 06:36 AM

Thanks for the compliments all.

Smithy, I agree with your list about eggplant prep. They're all a PITA, requiring much attention and make the eggplant too oily. The baked cutlet technique makes for crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside eggplant. I used to not like plain eggplant, but it is hard to not snack on these as they wait to get layered into the casserole.

Another note... Yesterday I used fresh bread crumbs for breading (had some hot dog buns to use up). Interestingly, they did not stick as well to the eggplant compared to plain, dry, store-bought crumbs. So, the eggplant slices weren't as well covered as they usually are, and they browned more too. So, if you make this, don't worry if your's aren't as browned as in my picture. And, they don't have to be totally limp after coming out of the oven. First, they will probably sit for a while until you are ready to assemble the moussaka, then they will be baked again.

Finally, if you haven't started this project yet... When you go to buy your ingredients, get an extra eggplant, especially if you can find some of those smaller ones like we did. If you have extra meat sauce and bechamel after filling your casserole, you'll be glad to have it on hand to make the papoutsakia.





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