Turkey Moussaka


I love classic Greek moussaka: baked layers of eggplant, tomatoes, minced meat and béchamel sauce. But I tend to find the traditional use of lamb too rich for the mix, so I often opt for ground turkey, which has plenty of depth, especially when spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.

Makes one (9- by 13- by 2-inch) casserole / Serves 8 to 10

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

2 pounds ground turkey

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dry basil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

3 eggs yolks, lightly beaten

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1 cup canola or vegetable oil (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan)

2 eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick

3 Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced

1 cup (4 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese (substitute Swiss)

1.     Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling hot. Add the onion and reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add the turkey and season with salt and black pepper, stirring to break up the meat as it cooks. Add the cinnamon, bay leaves, basil, red pepper flakes, half the nutmeg, ginger and allspice and cook, stirring, until the turkey is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

2.     Add the tomato paste, vinegar and tomatoes and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until slightly thick, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3.     While the sauce is simmering, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, whisk in the flour and cook until smooth and pale in color, about 2 minutes. Add the milk in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly, until all is incorporated. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking often, until thick and slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, black pepper and a few grates of fresh nutmeg. Remove from the heat and let cool until just warm, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks and yogurt. Whisk this into the milk mixture until smooth. 

4.     Heat just enough canola oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan about 1/8-inch deep over medium-high heat until sizzling hot. Working in batches, cook the eggplant until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side, adding more oil as needed. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. Add the potatoes, working in batches, and cook, just until tender but not cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and drain on a paper towel.

5.     Preheat the oven to 350°F.

6.     Spread 1 cup of the béchamel on the bottom of a 9- by 13- by 2-inch deep baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese. Spread the potatoes over the cheese and top with half the eggplant slices. Pour the meat sauce over the eggplant and top with remaining eggplant and béchamel sauce, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, cover with foil and place in the oven to bake, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges, about 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let sit about 30 minutes before serving.