Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fantastic Lamb and Eggplant Pastisio

The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. – Vince Lombardi

Deliciousness, in rectangle form.

If you’ve got too much time on your hand, you may want to try this recipe. Or perhaps I should say if you’re in need of a really good dinner try this recipe.

I even have to admit making pastitso is a time commitment. There’s a lot of prep that goes into this one. But, oh my, is it worth it! 

While you’re (merrily) working on the main course there’s nothing holding you back from making bread to round out the meal. Or a Greek salad, in case you don’t like fresh bread...

Making this dish is a multi-step process before it hits the oven to bake.

So what is all this work? First you have to broil eggplant slices. I find this an imperative. Broiling drives some of the moisture out and gives an overall smokey flavour.

Then there’s meat sauce to make. But the smell while you’re reducing down tomato, wine, onion, garlic and cinnamon with lamb is undeniably a near out-of-body experience. It’s worth paying admission to walk into a kitchen where this sauce is being made.

Then you have to boil pasta – and make a béchamel. Ugh, travails...

But what do you get from accomplishing the Labours of Hercules? You get one of the finest Greek dishes you will ever experience. If you’re into “good” food (as opposed to fancy food) you will love this. Guaranteed.

I found myself this Saturday up too early and with too few things to do (that I wanted to do). Do you know what I mean? Make a new task rather do a task you need to...

We’re still in uproar here from the move and have started the demolition of the current bathroom in favour of one from this century. There’s also a thousand things yet to unpack, etc., etc., etc....

But pastisio won out. Good thing, too. All that worrying about what I should have been doing really worked up an appetite!

I know I’m asking a lot, but you really should try this recipe. If you’re having family or friends over do the salad as well as the bread.

As added incentive, this dish is great to make ahead and then re-heat. That way if you have guests you can enjoy their company while you easily make a side salad, reheat the pistatsio and just pull this marvel out of the oven with a flourish!

As a parting shot, here’s two secret ingredients to add to your Greek salad dressing: diced anchovy and hot banana pepper. Try it. You’ll never do it any other way.

Lamb and Eggplant Pastisio
Time: 1.5 hour  |  Bake 1 hour  |  Serves 8
6 tbsp olive oil
2 medium eggplants
1 lb ground lamb
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp nutmeg
28 fl oz diced tomatoes and their liquid
1/2 cup red wine
salt and pepper
454 g penne, cooked
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Béchamel Sauce
1/2 cup butter
6 tablespoons flour
3-1/2 cups whole milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare a cookie sheet by rubbing with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. 

Slice the eggplant into 1/2 thick slices. Place the slices from one eggplant on the sheet to coat the bottom with oil. Turn, oiled side up and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil on high until browned. Turn, sprinkle with more salt and pepper and broil again.

Remove the broiled slices to a plate and repeat the procedure with the other eggplant slices. (2 tbsp olive oil, flip, season, broil, flip, etc.) Set the slices aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide sauté pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is softened. Add the ground lamb,cinnamon, oregano and nutmeg and cook until the meat is no longer pink. 

Then add the canned tomatoes, red wine and some salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, partially cover, reduce heat to medium low and let cook until the mixture is almost dry and the tomatoes have broken down, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Boil the pasta while you make the béchamel.

To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and let cook for about one minute. Then add the milk, one cup at a time. Let the mixture come to a boil and let cook, whisking constantly, for two or three minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Then whisk in the two eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add the egg, milk and cheese. Stir in well.

To assemble, place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a 9x16 baking dish. 

Arrange the eggplant slices on the bottom. Then add the meat mixture. Top with the noodles and then finally the béchamel. If desired grate a little more parmesan on top.

Bake uncovered at 350°F for 1 hour. This dish is better if allowed to cool and then reheated. The béchamel sets up for a better consistency if you do.

Serve with a Greek side salad. See secret ingredients I listed above to make your salad the best ever.


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  1. Beautiful - I needed a ricotta bechamel for a pastisio I made for Mardi Gras. Thanks for the tip to bake it ahead and reheat.
    Can't wait to enjoy this tonight! Opa!

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