Last night, after Diane’s marathon (no pun intended as you’ll see) of cooking over these holidays, I was able to use some of her remaining mornay sauce and make a dish that we have eaten off and on for years, mostly “off” and that dish was mussaka. It is traditionally attributed to the Greeks but according to Wikipedia variations are known throughout the Balkans and Middle East. My version for last evening’s meal tasted absolutely brilliant! I take no credit in its preparation; it was just a superb traditional recipe. We had to make some changes so my version is more Romanian than Greek. The original recipe comes from a book published in ’72 by Eva Zane, a Greek-American woman, called Greek Cooking For the Gods and the book was given to us as a ’73 wedding gift.
Traditional Greek mussaka calls for layers of sliced eggplant, sauteed lamb mince, more eggplant and topped with (and this is where Di’s leftovers come in) a generous spread of bechamel and according to Zane’s recipe, grated cheese over that topping. We used a local cheddar but some recipes call for grated parmesan.
I also substituted potato for the eggplant and minced pork for the minced lamb. These substitutions made the mussaka Romanian rather than tradional Greek. The topping can vary from the bechamel to the more traditional flavoured yogurt. I have not tried it but with a dish as good as mussaka there are always variations that should not have any effect on the goodness of the dish regardless of its origins.
I just fixed a simple salad for the end of the meal and that cleansing salad could not be more appropriate after the richness of the mussaka.
As a rule, Diane and I drink inexpensive wines and tonight was no exception; we enjoyed a Zonin Veneto Merlot and It tasted excellently. I had tried the wine with another meal and found it to be thin with very little body. This time, because the wine had been opened the day before and obviously breathed (but not too much), I found the wine to be excellent and it wasn’t even decanted. In my terribly ignorant opinion, I believe any wine from a bottle will profit from being decanted regardless of the price. Obviously the higher the price and the older the wine the longer the decanting period.