3 to 4 eggplants (about 4 pounds)
1 pound potatoes
Olive oil (for greasing baking sheets)
8 large egg whites (reserving the yolks for the béchamel)
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
For the Meat Filling
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or lamb)
2 large onions (finely diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt (to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
For the Béchamel Sauce
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (warmed)
8 large egg yolks (lightly beaten)
Pinch of ground nutmeg
For the Assembly
- Gather the ingredients for the vegetables.
- Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1-inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices.
- Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate and weigh down the plate with a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink and let it sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes, preferably 1 hour.
- Peel the potatoes, place whole in a pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Cook until they are just done, about 10 minutes. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Drain, cool, and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside.
- Heat the oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease with oil.
- Add a splash of water to the egg whites and beat them lightly with a fork. Place breadcrumbs on a flat plate.
- Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides.
- Place breaded eggplant slices on the foil-lined baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over once during cooking.
- When eggplant is finished cooking, set aside and lower the oven temperature to 350 F.
Make the Meat Filling
- Gather the ingredients for the meat filling.
- In a large sauté pan, brown the ground beef until the pink color disappears. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add wine to the pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and sugar.
- Allow the sauce to simmer, uncovered, for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make the Béchamel Sauce
- Gather the ingredients for the sauce.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour to melted butter, whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Let the flour cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
- Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.
- Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to the heat and stir until sauce thickens. Set aside.
Assemble the Moussaka
- Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (a lasagna pan works perfectly). Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with breadcrumbs.
- Leaving a 1/4-inch space around the edges of the pan, place the potatoes in a layer on the bottom. Top with a layer of half of the eggplant slices.
- Add the meat sauce on top of the eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.
- Pour the béchamel sauce over all, being sure to allow the sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow it to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving.