Friday, February 19, 2010

Bison Moussaka

To start things off, a hearty dinner recipe that S and I made recently. We decided to jazz up this traditional Greek dish by using ground bison meat instead of traditional lamb, but we've tried it with lamb before, and it's delicious. Ground beef would work here as well. We've also lightened this fairly significantly (bison is a lean meat, and we used nonfat yogurt, and a small amount of oil).

A few words about moussaka. It's basically a casserole on crack: layers of veggies (eggplant, potato, green pepper), interleaved with layers of ground meat sauce (cooked with tomatoes and spices). It is usually attributed to Greece, but as with most dishes hailing from the Balkans, many cultures have their own variants (according to wikipedia, "all the cuisines of the former Ottoman region" do). Seems that this recipe is mostly Greek-influenced in at least its structure, because it is layered and topped with a yogurt-based sauce.

Bison Moussaka Recipe


Meat sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground bison (or any other ground red meat)
1 large chopped onion
3-6 cloves garlic, mincedjavascript:void(0)
2/3 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons red chili powder
1 28-ounce cans tomatoes, drained (can be chopped or left whole for a more rustic feel)
1/4 cup dried currants
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
(Optional) Pinch of cinnamon (we did not use it)

Other layers:
2 large green bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium eggplants (about 1.5 pounds total), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 large russet potato, cut into 1/4 inch slices (submerge in cold water after cutting to prevent browning)
olive oil

Yogurt topping:
2 cups Greek yogurt (we used nonfat Fage. Greek-style yogurt is best, but any plain yogurt could potentially be substituted)
2 large egg yolks


1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add peppers, sauté until tender and beginning to color, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer peppers to bowl and set aside.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground meat and sauté until cooked through, breaking up with back of spoon, about 6 minutes.

3. Add onion and garlic, sauté until onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Add wine and chili powder and cook 2 more minutes. Stir in tomatoes, currants, tomato paste, nutmeg, and allspice. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until sauce is very thick, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. In the meantime, line large baking sheet with foil. Arrange eggplant slices in layers on prepared sheet, sprinkling each layer with sea salt. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. (This step gets rid of excess moisture in eggplant, but it is not completely necessary and could be skipped).

5. Preheat broiler. Pat eggplant slices dry with paper towels. Remove eggplant from the baking sheet so that only a single layer of slices is left. Brush lightly with olive oil on both sides, broil until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Repeat with remaining eggplant.

6. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 13x9x2-inch baking casserole with oil. Drain potatoes and arrange in bottom of dish. Arrange half of eggplant slices over potatoes. Pour half of the meat sauce over. Arrange sautéed peppers over sauce. Arrange remaining eggplant over peppers. Pour remaining sauce over.

7. Bake moussaka until bubbling around edges, about 45 minutes. Whisk yogurt and egg yolks in medium bowl to blend. Pour over moussaka, covering completely. Bake until yogurt topping is softly set, about 15 minutes. Transfer baking dish to rack and let stand 20 minutes.

8. Spoon moussaka onto plates.

Serves 6.

This recipe can be prepared ahead of time, cooled, and refrigerated. Reheat in 400 F oven or in the microwave.

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