Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

June 28, 2010

Chef’s Night Off: Chef Dimitri's Moussaka

Comes the weekend, Chef Dimitri of  The Mansion* cooks moussaka. The other night, I ordered it again. One portion is ample for the two of us. The accompanying Greek salad, could easily feed a party of four. Getting ready to write about the moussaka for Chef’s Night Off, I asked Dimitri what the moussaka contained.

“Why don’t you come tomorrow morning and we’ll cook moussaka together?” asked Dimitri.

How could I resist?

I appeared at the appointed hour, put on an apron and watched the making of moussaka to the delight of the kitchen crew.

The basics had already been prepped: sliced potatoes, sliced eggplants, sautéed chopped onions, tomato sauce, and chopped beef. The latter had been cooked slightly to remove the fat. With the preheated oven and four burners going, the kitchen temperature seemed 100 degrees. We drank plenty of bottled water.
The cooking began: Dimitri roasted the sliced potatoes and eggplants, sprinkled with olive oil, on a sheet pan in the 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Next, he combined the sautéed onions and tomato sauce with the chopped meat, and seasoned the mixture with allspice, cinnamon, salt and black pepper, nutmeg, some white wine, and tarragon. Then he assembled the dish in one large pan:

1 layer of sliced potatoes
1 layer of the meat, sprinkled with grated Parmesan
1 layer of eggplants
1 layer of meat

Came the time for the Béchamel sauce. Dimitri heated butter, milk and half and half cream in a pan. He added some cold water, plus a generous portion of grated Kasseri cheese.

“If you can’t get Kasseri, you can use Swiss cheese,” he said.

Next he added some flour, stirring it with an electric mixer not to form lumps. He stirred the mixture constantly, until the sauce was smooth and creamy. He removed the pan from the heat and called for some eggs. These he beat vigorously before folded them into the béchamel.

“Taste it,” he suggested, obviously pleased. “It may need a little bit more salt and pepper.”

Once done, he poured about one inch of Béchamel over the last layer of meat, sprinkled the top with grated Romano parmesan and breadcrumbs, and baked it in the oven for 20 minutes.

“It should be lightly brown,” he advised. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.”

I nodded.

“So when will you make moussaka?” he asked. “If you need help, just come and asked me.”

I looked at him amazed. “Dimitri, why would I ever want to cook something as labor intensive as moussaka when I have you next door?”


Greek Salad
Wine: Côtes du-Ventoux 2007, Delas
Dessert; Strawberries

*The Mansion (212) 535-8888
Corner 86th & York

1 comment:

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