I’ve eaten moussaka twice in my life. The first time was last Saturday and second time was today when I made moussaka from scratch using Akis Petretzikis’ recipe. Moussaka is a Greek casserole, which traditionally includes layers of spiced (not spicy) ground lamb, potatoes and eggplant and is topped with a creamy béchamel sauce. It’s total comfort food – like American mac and cheese, Italian lasagna and British/Irish/Scottish shepherd’s pie.
Every Saturday, a farmers market sets up at our local train station. I visited the market three weeks ago and bought a loaf of bread from Bien Cuit, a wedge of cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm, two soft pretzels from Bronx Baking Co. and a piece of spanakopita from Mrs. D’s Mediterranean Delights. At Mrs. D’s stand, she also had moussaka. I had never had moussaka before so I stuck with the spanakopita and headed home. The spinach pie was delicious and I now had moussaka on my mind.
Last Saturday my husband and daughter headed to the farmers market and I asked them to pick up a piece of Mrs. D’s moussaka. I assumed that the top layer of moussaka was whipped mashed potatoes, so imagine my surprise when I bit into a soft creamy layer of béchamel with a thin crispy crust! My next surprise was the subtle taste of cinnamon and spice which seasoned the ground beef. I completely welcomed and enjoyed the flavors. And finally, the potatoes were perfectly cut and cooked. (Perhaps there was some eggplant in there, but I didn’t detect any.) Mrs. D’s moussaka is heavenly.
I was completely hooked and began googling moussaka recipes. Over the next five days, I narrowed it down to two – one by Saveur and the other by Akis Petretzikis, a Greek accountant turned chef/chef celebrity. I ultimately chose Mr. Petretzikis’ recipe for three reasons. First, he includes potatoes, eggplant and zucchini which are oven-roasted (i.e. not pan-fried) with thyme, my favorite herb. Secondly, each layer stands out on its own, yet they all meld perfectly together. And finally and most importantly, Mr. Petretzikis’ amazing instructional video makes the process of making moussaka a breeze. I made the moussaka solely by watching his video – not once did I refer to his written instructions.
Mr. Petretzikis’s version of moussaka is delicious. I relished every bite. I strongly encourage you to watch Mr. Petretzikis’ video and try his recipe. There is nothing that I would change about his methodology. Below you will find the list of ingredients in English measurements, as Mr. Petretzikis lists most of them in metric measurements. I made slight modifications to the amounts which you can cross-reference and modify to your tastes.
Akis Petretzikis’ Moussaka Ingredients (with my modifications):
For the vegetables:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Idaho or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8″ slices
- 1/2 red onion, cut into 1/4″ slices
- 1 eggplant, cut into 1/8″ slices
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/8″ slices
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh thyme leaves
For the ground meat mixture:
- Olive oil for sautéing onion and garlic
- 1/2 red onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 pound ground sirloin beef or ground lamb
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
For the béchamel sauce:
- 4 cups whole milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons butter
- Ground pepper to taste
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- (Kosher salt to taste)
Other helpful information:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (preferably on the convection setting, if your oven has one).
- Use a 9″ x 13″ standard casserole dish. (I used a glass Pyrex dish.)
- Add kosher salt (1 to 2 teaspoons) to the béchamel sauce (after adding the parmesan cheese). Everyone has a different tolerance to salt, so add to taste.