Thursday, July 15, 2010
Pastitsio - Lamb and Eggplant Casserole
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Casseroles are a bit like life. They're not always pretty, they can be messy and full of surprises, but when all is said and done, they are enormously satisfying. Casseroles have been with us since women began tending pots suspended over fire, but the idea of the casserole as a one-dish meal was initiated in America during the Great Depression. They became really popular in the 1950's when new materials for cooking appeared on the market and advertisers began touting the virtues of one-dish meals that freed women from kitchen drudgery. They remained popular through the 1970's but fell into disfavor as diner's became more sophisticated and diet conscious. I still have several casseroles in my permanent recipe rotation, but today's recipe was a test run. My family will be visiting in August and our two oldest grandsons are beginning to display symptoms of, what we call, "hollow leg syndrome" - they are always hungry. I like to have a casserole or two available to supplement regular meals while they're here. I'd seen this recipe in Gourmet magazine years ago. I clipped it because it was so much lighter than my version of this Greek classic. Pastitsio is a Greek casserole that contains layers of macaroni and chopped meat that are topped with a cream sauce. I made it this evening and must say I found it to be a nice, but not great, casserole. I expected more from this multi-step recipe than it could deliver. None of the steps are hard, but this is not a dish that you can throw together in minutes. I expect recipes this involved to be great and it missed the mark. I am, however, going to keep and recommend the recipe because it is a nice alternative to lasagna when you have a crowd to feed. Here's the recipe. You be the judge.
Pastitsio - Lamb and Eggplant Casserole...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite, courtesy of Gourmet Magazine
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground lamb
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 (28- to 32-oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 garlic clove
1 whole clove
1/2 lb feta, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs
10 ounces penne (3 cups)
1) To make lamb sauce: Cook onion in oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add lamb and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, oregano, cinnamon, sugar, and pepper and sauté, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in eggplant and tomatoes and gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is just tender, about 40 minutes. Remove lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2) To make cheese sauce: While lamb is simmering, melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and add garlic clove and whole clove, then bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Add feta, salt, and pepper and cook, whisking vigorously, until cheese is well incorporated. Remove from heat. Discard garlic clove and whole clove. Beat eggs in a large bowl and gradually add sauce to eggs, whisking.
3) To make pasta: Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just al dente, then drain in a colander. Toss half of pasta with lamb sauce and half with cheese sauce.
4) To assemble pastitsio: Pour pasta with lamb sauce into a wide shallow 3-quart baking dish, spreading evenly. Spoon pasta with cheese sauce on top, spreading evenly. Bake pastitsio, uncovered, in middle of oven until bubbling and top is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
You might also enjoy these recipes:
Moroccan Shepherd's Pie - One Perfect Bite
Arroz con Pollo - One Perfect Bite
Microwave: Smoked Sausage Casserole - One Perfect Bite
Cheesy Squash and Tomato Casserole - Sugar and Spice by Celeste
Spinach Macaroni Casserole - Served with Love
Pierogi Casserole - Neo-Homesteading