My kids and I snuggled under a pile of blankets as the winds howled outside. They fell asleep pretty quickly, but I was wide awake and my heart raced every time the windows rattled and house creaked. Sometime between 9 p.m. and 12 midnight, I fell asleep.
The silence woke me.
I was relieved it was over and I was ready to start the day. I looked out the window and strained my eyes to see any visible damage, if any. Just a stray garbage can in our front lawn. I thought it was at least 5 a.m. since it was still dark. I looked at my iPhone.
It read 12:44.
That was last Monday. We just got our power back yesterday.
Losing power for 8 days seems like just a mere inconvenience compared to the devastation on the Jersey Shore, and all the coastal towns of Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Long Island. People have lost homes…and just…everything. I first saw news coverage of the hurricane 3 days after Sandy left us and was simply dumbfounded with scenes of so much destruction so close to us. What’s more, today the Nor’easter slowly crept up the East Coast doing its thing. While the blanket of snow is pretty, it’s putting a damper on recovery efforts everywhere.
Jenn from Jenn Cuisine and Barbara from Creative Culinary have joined forces to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. They have asked food bloggers to post a comfort dish. A dish you would make and bring over to a friend in need and just make them feel good all over.
So instead of my usual Thursday Three today, I’m sharing one of my favorite comfort dishes, lamb and eggplant moussaka. This moussaka is a dish I’ve made many times for friends. While it takes some time to prepare, that is part of the fun. This dish freezes well and leftovers are awesome as flavors meld together over time.
I hope that through this post I can do my part to help my fellow New Jerseyans and New Yorkers who have been victimized by Sandy. Please click on the link at the end of this post to make your donation to the American Red Cross and other organizations who are dedicated in helping the victims of Sandy.
Lamb and Eggplant Moussaka
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated The Best Make-Ahead Recipe
Serves 6 to 8
4 pounds eggplant (about 4 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
2 pounds ground lamb (or ground beef)
1 medium onion, minced
4-5 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup white flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch ground nutmeg
Prepare the Eggplant:
1 – Adjust the oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray.
2 – In a large bowl, toss eggplant cubes with a few tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Spread the eggplant evenly onto the baking sheets. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through roasting time. Set aside when done.
Prepare the lamb:
3 – In the meantime, brown the lamb in a large Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat, while breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon. Cook until no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Drain the meat through a strainer and set aside. Don’t throw the pot into the sink just yet.
4 – Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the large emptied pot over medium heat. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until softened and lightly browned.
5 – Stir in the garlic and cinnamon and cook for about 30 seconds.
6 – Stir in tomato paste and cook for about another 30 seconds.
7 – Stir in the drained lamb, tomato puree, wine, oregano, and sugar. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover partially and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 25-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare the sauce:
8 – Heat the milk in a microwave-proof bowl in the microwave oven for about 2 minutes. I like to use my large glass measuring cup. Or heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Be sure NOT to bring it to a boil.
9 – While the sauce simmers, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk and cook for about 5 minutes.
10 – Gradually whisk in the milk 1/2-cup at a time. Cook until thickened. Take the saucepan off the heat.
11 – Add Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Assembling the casserole:
12 – Spread the eggplant evenly in a 9-inch x 13-inch baking pan.
13 – Spread the lamb filling over the eggplant.
14 – Then pour and spread the white sauce evenly over the lamb.
So you can do a couple of things here. If you want to eat this dish right away then:
15 – Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bake uncovered for about 25-30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and starting to brown.
If you want to bring the dish over to a friend or want to have it later then:
16 – Cover and seal the pan with aluminum foil once the casserole is cooled to room temperature. You can either refrigerate it for up to 2 days or keep it in the freezer for up to a month…or two.
17 – When you are ready to bake it, thaw it out overnight in the refrigerator if frozen. Then bake in a 400ºF preheated oven covered for about 30-40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes.
Here are a few larger organizations dedicating themselves to helping the victims of hurricane Sandy.
- American Red Cross is providing food, shelter, and other forms of support to hurricane victims. You can donate directly to the Red Cross or you can also text the word “Redcross” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
- Feeding America is providing food, water and supplies to those who need it as part of their disaster relief program.
- The Salvation Army is also focused on providing food, shelter, and support to victims, and takes donations for storm relief.