Musings on Moussaka

Oops, I didn't even blog March's fibre club! The reveal happened on Ravelry, but I forgot to post it here for everyone else. Sorry about that, folks. And I've forgotten to blog lots of other things, too. But I'm back today, mainly because I want to make notes to myself on the dinner I made last night, and I've had at least one request to share those notes!

While flipping past the Food Network yesterday, I noticed that Bobby Flay was doing a "Throwdown" with moussaka. I was intrigued enough to pause and watch, even though I rarely have moussaka that I really like--I'm fussy about eggplant and it's usually cooked badly, often the flavours in the meat mixture are off, etc. But as I watched Flay and the Greek food expert he was challenging play with the traditions of moussaka, I thought--what about giving it a potato topping, a la shepherd's pie? And what if we replaced all the eggplant with zucchini, which I much prefer? And maybe included some carrots because as spring approaches, that's one of the fall storage veggies I have in abundance? S agreed that it was intriguing, so I went for it. The results were delicious, and I will definitely be revisiting this idea!

I didn't make any notes while I was cooking, so I don't have actual quantities for most ingredients--I've tried to give approximations. Also, I didn't take a picture when it came out of the oven last night...not sure if the leftovers will take a pretty picture, either. So this isn't a real recipe post, but some notes on what I know I did. Next time I come back to it, I'll probably refine it a bit and if that happens, I'll try to come back with pictures & corrections. But in the meantime, here are some notes on what I did.

It should be noted that this recipe requires a LOT of dishes, and a fairly long list of ingredients. Despite that, I found it fairly simple--and totally worth it. At roughly 8 months pregnant, I don't appreciate recipes that keep me standing in the kitchen all night--and this really wasn't too bad! I did save the dishes for this morning, though.

Meat filling:
1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground beef or lamb
2 t dried oregano
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1 stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
2 T tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
14 oz. can plum tomatoes
several dashes hot sauce

3 medium zucchinis, sliced lengthwise, 1/4-1/2 inch thick
1 T vegetable oil (or cooking spray)
salt & pepper

Potato topping:
1 lb. russet potatoes, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
1 egg, beaten
4-6 T butter, melted
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup feta, crumbled

I've written these for each layer, but you'll want to maximize your time by working on all three simultaneously. My suggestion--start the meat mixture, then get the potatoes boiling and the zucchini in the oven. After that, focus on the meat mixture. While it finishes cooking you can pull the zucchini out and put the finishing touches on the potatoes.

Meat Mixture:
1. Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add onions and carrots, season with salt and pepper, cook until tender. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute more.
2. Add the meat, breaking up with a spoon, and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.
3. Add spices and tomato paste, cook 1-2 minutes, stirring to distribute flavours.
Add wine, cook another 1-2 minutes, then add tomatoes and hot sauce. Use spoon to break up larger pieces of tomatoes, and bring mixture to a simmer. Let cook until liquid has reduced and flavours have developed, stirring occasionally.

1. Preheat oven to 350. Brush zucchini with oil or spray with cooking spray. Place on a baking sheet, season lightly with salt and pepper.
2. Bake zucchini until tender and beginning to brown, perhaps 15 minutes?

Potato topping:
1. Place potato chunks in pot and cover with water and a dash of salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the lid and let potatoes continue to boil until tender, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Drain potatoes and process in a potato ricer or food mill. (You could probably do this without one of these tools, but I would be concerned that the topping would be too heavy. One of the best parts about this was the light, fluffy potatoes!)
3. Beat eggs, melted butter, and milk together. Add riced potatoes, season with nutmeg, and beat with a mixer until fluffy. Gently fold in feta.

Assembly & baking:
1. Lightly oil a 9x13 baking dish. Place baked zucchini in one layer on bottom of the pan. Top with meat mixture, then cover with potato topping. Gently smooth potatoes without compressing them, leaving some peaks/texture.
2. Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes, or until potatoes are set and the dish is bubbly and fragrant. For a crispy topping (so good!), turn on the broiler for a minute or two until nice and brown.
3. The hardest part: allow the dish to rest at least 5-10 minutes before slicing & serving!