Shortcut Moussaka Lo-Co Style

Alternate Post Title: Melissa Clark Rocks.  

On a cold day, nothing beats moussaka. There is something so satisfying about this eggplant and spiced lamb casserole topped with creamy b├ęchamel mashed potatoes. The best I've ever had is at NYC's Molyvos: theirs is cinnamon-spiced heaven served up in your own private copper tureen - it's so delicious I won't even share mine. Seriously, we order a second for the table.

As Moussaka is decidedly NOT low cholesterol, it's a good thing that Molyvos is 50+ miles from where I live.

That said, I miss moussaka.

So I was thrilled to see Melissa Clark's Shortcut Moussaka recipe in the Dining Section of the 10/26/11 New York Times. I've never before even considered making moussaka. To me, the idea of making moussaka from scratch feels lasagna-level-daunting: too many ingredients and layering is involved.

But this recipe's title totally drew me in -- I love me a good shortcut.

And if Melissa Clark* wrote the recipe, I knew it'd be good. That even though making this dish would take some serious time (2+ hours!) it would be worth it. *James Beard Award-Winning Author Melissa Clark has created many recipes I love, including the one I blogged about in my I Hate Salad post.

Andrew Scrivani, NYT

So I was ready to get cooking, assuming this recipe was even vaguely lo-co. With no nutritional info to guide me, I was stumped. And much as I was now jonesing for moussaka, there was no way was I spending 2 hours on this recipe if it was not lo-co.  Or at least lo-co-ish.

So I put into action a suggestion Jean Kwok made at the BlogHer Writers Conference lat month - and tweeted that I was 'dying to try #Shortcut-Moussaka if it is even vaguely low fat.' Lo and behold, Melissa Clark herself replied in minutes (thank you BlogHer Writers Conference!)

I love the internet.

Not only did she tweet back, Ms. Clark even took the time to reply to questions I emailed. She basically created - on the fly - a lower fat version of her Shortcut Moussaka Recipe. Here's what she emailed:

"Hi Karen- Lamb is pretty lean so I think you're okay there but if you want to use turkey it would work. You can use skim milk and cut the butter and oil, no problem! I'd just cut them in half. Also you can cut the parm to 1/4 cup, add a pinch more salt to make up the flavor. And let me know how it comes out! best, Melissa."

Have I mentioned how much I love the internet?

And Melissa Clark. Who totally rocks.

OK, sorry there - small diversion. I made Shortcut Moussaka Lo-Co Style last weekend and it was GREAT. I loved it. No, it was not Molyvos-Amazing, but then I didn't expect it to be (to see why mere mortals can't replicate certain dishes at home, just google Molyvos Moussaka and read their complex recipe).

But this Melissa Clark recipe was exactly what I hoped for: a relatively easy (if time consuming) way to get Moussaka back into my mostly lo-co life.

Even my 16 year old liked it. I hadn't served him a piece assuming he wouldn't be interested - naturally he was offended. Then he ate the Moussaka and liked it. Liked it, I tell you. My husband liked it too, but that doesn't count as he likes most anything.

If you are going to try Shortcut Moussaka - either the original recipe in the NYT or with the modifications Melissa Clark suggested to make it more lo-co, here are a few things I learned along the way:

  • Follow her eggplant directions! Mine wasn't eggplant-y enough because: a) I used less than 2 lbs of eggplant, b) I used regular and Asian eggplant b/c that's what I had, and c) I lamely cut the pieces into cubes that were way too small.
  • Don't peel the eggplant - not sure if you are supposed to or not.  I think not.
  • Try lamb if you can find it. I used turkey because I could not find lamb.  Turkey was good, but lamb would be give a more authentic, more flavorful taste.
  • I failed at clove. I did not have ground cloves, only whole cloves (that were probably 20 years old). I tried to microplane the teeny tiny ancient cloves. It did NOT work. You can stop laughing now.
  • This dish is supposed to make your kitchen fragrant with cloves and cinnamon. Clove disaster above explains lack of clove aroma. Somehow, though, even though I did use 2 cinnamon sticks, I did not get much cinnamon flavor or aroma (and no, the sticks were not 20 years old). Next time I'll probably use cinnamon sticks plus a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.
  • The bread crumb topping did not work for me at all.  Probably it'd be good if you used freshly made bread crumbs. Not ever going to happen in my house - so in my view, either use fresh or omit.  I'll be omitting.

It does indeed take at least 2 hours to make this dish - but oh, so worth it. Give either the original or the lo-co version a try, and please post here or on the golowcholesterol facebook page what you think.  Melissa asked for feedback so let's get her some (look at me, acting like I'm all buds with her. Lame, I know.  Sorry).

Seriously, though, let me know how it works for you. I think you'll like it too.

Going Lo-Co is a blog about one woman's journey to lower cholesterol without medication via food and lifestyle changes and the crazy things that happen along the way.  Read more at www.golowcholesterol.com. Twitter: @golocholesterol.  Facebook.

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