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Papa Cristo's meat moussaka

Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Yields Serves 12 to 16
Papa Cristo’s meat moussaka
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Meat sauce

1

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the olive oil, onions and ground meat, along with the seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

2

Stir in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, parsley, garlic and cinnamon. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the red wine, scraping any flavoring from the bottom of the pan. Cook the sauce for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and skim any fat from the top of the sauce, discarding the fat. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired. This makes a generous quart of meat sauce.

Béchamel sauce

1

In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to form a roux, then continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the roux is a golden, sandy color, 4 to 6 minutes.

2

Increase the heat to medium-high and slowly whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until thickened by the roux. Bring to a very gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently (watch that the sauce does not burn on the bottom of the pan), for 20 minutes to cook out the flour flavor. Remove from heat, season with the salt, and set aside. This makes a scant quart sauce.

Moussaka

1

In a steamer set over a pot of boiling water, steam the whole potatoes until tender (a knife or fork should easily pierce the flesh), 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then slice the potatoes, lengthwise, into 1/4-inch thick slices.

2

While the potatoes are steaming, slice the top and bottom off the eggplants, then slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices.

3

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with the seasoning, then grill just until the slices are softened and charred. Repeat until all of the slices are grilled. Set the eggplant aside.

4

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

5

Assemble the moussaka: Brush a deep disposable lasagna pan (roughly 14- by 9 1/2- by 3-inches deep) with olive oil. Layer the bottom of the pan with 1/2 of the potato slices, overlapping them slightly if needed. Cover the potatoes with 1/2 of the eggplant slices, then spread over all of the meat sauce. Sprinkle over one half of the cheese, gently pressing the cheese into the meat mixture. Top the cheese with the remaining potatoes, forming a layer, then add the remaining eggplant. Spoon over the béchamel, smoothing it over the top. Finally, sprinkle over the remaining cheese, gently pressing the cheese into the béchamel sauce.

6

Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the moussaka is lightly browned on top, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes (ovens will vary — check after 40 minutes to see how the moussaka is progressing). Cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Adapted from a recipe by Papa Cristo’s in Los Angeles. Greek seasoning, wine and Kefalotiri cheese are available at Papa Cristo’s, as well as at select Greek markets.

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