I always think of making moussaka as kind of an undertaking, like making lasagne: Making different concoctions and then layering them. Then I came across a recipe for a shortcut moussaka which made me realize it could be do-able as a quick dinner. It’s not authentic but it’s tasty.
This recipe replaces the bechamel sauch with a mixture of soft cheese and cream and I made a few additional changes to make it a skillet version you could make in one pan. I also added some zucchini, since it starts arriving around the same time as the eggplant and it feels good to kill two birds with one stone.
Your skillet will end up under the broiler, so make sure it’s a broiler-safe pan. Or you can transfer the mixture to a baking dish before broiling.
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 lb. eggplant, cut into medium dice (multiple smallish younger eggplants will be better than one old giant eggplant)
1 zucchini, cut into medium dice
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef or lamb
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes with juice (one 15-ounce can)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh-ground black pepper
6 ounces creamy herbed cheese, such as a brebis, chevre, Boursin, or Rondele
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
In a large stainless-steel frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the eggplant and zucchini and cook about 5 minutes. Add the lamb or beef and cook until the meat loses its pink color. Stir in the wine, tomato paste, tomatoes, bay leaf, cinnamon, allspice, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
In a small saucepan, combine the soft cheese, 1/4 cup cream, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Warm gently, stirring often, over low heat until just melted. You want an easily spreadable, but not soupy, consistency, so add a little cream if it still seems too stiff; just don’t add too much.
Remover the cover from the skillet. If the mixture has a lot of liquid, increase the heat to medium-high and cook it, uncovered, to reduce and concentrate a bit, stirring occasionally. This will probably take 5-10 minutes.
Spoon the cheese sauce over the mixture in the skillet. Or, grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish, transfer the eggplant/meat mixture and then spoon the cheese sauce over it. Sprinkle grated Parmesan over the top. Broil until just starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.