I admit it. I have a thing for Michael Symon. No, not like that. He's a hometown boy! We both hail from Cleveland, Ohio which is now something of a Midwest food destination. I never would have predicted that as a kid. I think Lake Erie perch and homemade pierogis were the stars of the Cleveland food world back then.
Now, when G and I roadtrip to New York to visit relatives, we always make sure we're hungry right about the time we hit Westlake (West Side) or Woodmere (East Side). Symon's burger joint, B Spot, has outposts there.
Hold please, I need to stop drooling before I continue.
Okay, so, I thought for my first cookbook spotlight, I'd choose Symon's latest, Carnivore.
When I picked up Carnivore, I opened right to the page for Symon's Moussaka recipe.
Lamb? Works for me. As the pickiest of eaters as a kid, I liked lamb. Once in a while, Mom would make lamb patties for dinner. What exactly were those things, Mom? They weren't thick and juicy like a burger. They were flat and brown and quite boring, but for some reason that distinct lamb flavor got me.
Years later, when I finished my vegetarian phase and discovered lamb at a Middle Eastern dinner, I had a flashback. Omigosh! I remember this flavor. I like lamb!Moussaka
The first step of the recipe is to soak golden raisins in warmed red wine. Once I read that, I knew I was going to enjoy making this recipe.
I browned the ground lamb in olive oil and spices such as cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and red pepper flake. Then I sauteed red peppers and onions, adding garlic and tomato paste, red wine, the raisins, and chopped parsley and oregano. (I didn't have the required mint on hand.)
Next step is to slice eggplant and pan fry it. This can be a bit tricky. The eggplant absorbed the oil so quickly that I struggled with achieving the proper texture. Some of the eggplant were perfect and some were downright soggy. I still used all of the slices as the foundation of the dish. If I hadn't told you, no one would know I struggled with the eggplant!
Lastly was to make the bechamel sauce that tops the dish. Butter and flour to start a roux, add milk (and a bay leaf) and whisk, whisk, whisk until thickened. The recipe wants the whisking to last 30 minutes; I only lasted about 20 minutes. Once the bechamel sits for a few minutes to cool, egg yolks, Greek yogurt, lemon zest and feta are added to make this beautiful rich, golden "white" sauce.
Once out of the oven, the moussaka was bubbly and the creamy bechamel was spotted with almost-crispy browns and golds. The final product made me beam.
I was the only taste tester for the Moussaka. I made the mistake of telling G that there was eggplant in the dish and then he didn't come near it. He really missed out.
At first, I found the Moussaka almost a tad sweet for me, for which I blamed the raisins. I enjoyed it more the following day, once the flavors had time to meld, like a good stew or chili. If I were to make this again, I would add a bit more red pepper flake and fresh herbs.
This recipe is what I would call a Sunday dinner dish. The recipe is not difficult but it does take a good amount of time to put it all together.