I recently found a great recipe for this classic Greek favorite by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, which prompted me to try my hand at it. Emeril’s recipe calls for half of your meat to be ground lamb, but I stuck with ground chuck, which is a lot easier to find at our local supermarkets. A word of warning… this is the perfect weekend recipe, not something for your hurried weeknights! Take that word of caution from my experience! But please do not pass this great recipe by because of the steps involved. Your time and patience will be rewarded!
* 3 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
* 1 1/2 cups olive oil, plus more as needed
* 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
* 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 1 ½ pound ground chuck
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/4 cup dry red wine
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
* 1/2 cup water
* 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
* 1/2 cup salt, plus more for seasoning
* Freshly ground black pepper
* 2 1/2 cups milk
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* 1 egg yolk
* 1 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Once you have all of your ingredients ready, let’s get started.
Place the peeled eggplant slices in a large bowl and cover with water. Add 1/2 cup of salt and gently combine. Let this stand for 20 minutes, drain, and pat dry with paper towels. (Tip: Lay out a few layers of paper towels, lay your eggplant slices on them, and top with more paper towels. This will help draw out the water.)
While the eggplant is soaking, let’s work on the potatoes. Heat 1/2 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet (I actually had two skillets going to cut down on the time) and, working in batches, add the potato slices and cook until lightly golden on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper-lined plate to drain and repeat with any remaining potato slices. Season lightly with salt.
Place 1 cup of flour into a bowl and coat both sides of the eggplant slices in the flour. Shake to remove any excess flour. Add 1/4 cup of the remaining oil to the skillet and, working in batches, fry the eggplant slices until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add more oil to the skillet as needed in 1/4 cup increments. Repeat until all of the eggplant has been cooked and transfer to a paper-lined plate to drain.
Moving on to the meat. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Cook the meat and drain off the grease. Add the onions, and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Toss in the garlic and oregano. Add the red wine and cook until evaporated. Add the tomato paste, stir to incorporate, then add the crushed tomatoes, water, and parsley. Stir occasionally, until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Let’s make the béchamel sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Once it is hot, whisk in the flour, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, until smooth and thick. Season with salt to taste. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, cover, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. The first layer will be all of the sliced potatoes in an even layer. Next, top with half of the eggplant slices then half of the meat sauce. Spoon 3/4 cup of the béchamel sauce evenly over the meat sauce and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese. Finally, top with the remaining eggplant slices, pressing down on the layers gently with your hands to compress (if needed) and top with the remaining meat sauce and then spread the remaining béchamel sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake (uncovered) 50 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown on the top and heated throughout. Let stand for at least 15-20 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.