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Moussaka--Cook-Off 7


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I have always sliced, salted and drained for moussaka in the past, but I like Rachel's idea of baking. So, for this round, I am going to follow her idea.

Ground lamb is not to be found in any of our sources at the moment, not even frozen chubs. I bought some shoulder chops, but I am thinking of using ground bison which is very lean and suitable for our low fat diet at the moment.

Talk about putting my own spin on a classic...

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Obviously this is basically a one dish meal.  Do you all serve a (Greek?) salad with it?

At Turkish and Greek restaurants in the US, that's typically what it is accompanied with, yes, with perhaps some warm pita bread.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I will use a recipe from "A New Book of Middle Eastern food" by Claudia Roden. This recipe. It uses a bechamel sauce enrichened with eggs and states potatoes as being optional. I'll definitely include the potatoes.

I will be using ground lamb since it is rather easy to get here in Sweden but the recipe above states that ground beef may be used as well. Half the time I get moussaka in greek restaurants, it is made with ground beef. Does any one know which is more authentic? Could this be a regional issue?

Unfortunately I will not have the time to the moussaka until next weekend.

Christofer Kanljung

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

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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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.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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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

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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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.

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

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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

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?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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

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 (log)
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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.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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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:

If more of us valued food & cheer & song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. - J.R.R. Tolkien
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Not entirely sure, although I think cinnamon and allspice are two of them.

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:

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:

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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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.

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

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.

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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?

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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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.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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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.

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