Potato Moussaka With Bolognese Sauce

This recipe can be filed under "almost great, but absolutely good enough". I'm sure that isn't super convincing for others to try it - but I still think you should. I've literally been eating the leftovers for three days and I'm not upset. 

I found this recipe by trolling Food52 for recipes that called out "slow cooking". Sometimes I want a recipe that is pretty quick, but on New Years Eve I feel compelled to invest a couple hours in the activity. My plans for NYE are pretty low key. I think the last time I "raged" was in 2011. To be clear, there were about 6 people that came over but we drank a lot and made a delicious meal. In recent years, I've stuck with going to a yoga class and making a nice meal (2013 & 2017). I'm pretty happy with this tradition.

So, this meal is kind of like you made a lasagna with bolognese sauce and then covered it in gratin potatoes. All that sounds great. Funny story? I actually forgot to add the celery until about an hour into the cooking. It was fine. But here are a few notes for the next time:
  • actually make gratin potatoes // the top needs to be cheesier. I would try to do another layer of potato on the top and add extra cheese but especially one that gets melty. If I'm being honest, when I reheat this I put a little mozzarella on it. 
  • don't overcook it // We ended up eating dinner about 30 minutes later than I anticipated, so the meal dried out just a bit. I would recommend undercooking this next time and then tossing it under the broiled about 10 minutes before we are ready to eat.
  • base layer // the recipe calls for salt/pepper on each pepper layer. I've been trying to cut back on my salt intake so this felt like a lot. I would try to add flavor in another way. I'm sure that cheese isn't the exact answer but it's a start :) So maybe add a sprinkle of cheese on each layer.
As an fyi, this recipe actually makes a double batch of bolognese! So, its a real bonus leftovers situation and I love it. Here's how it goes.

Make the Sauce
  1. Add the chopped carrots, onions, celery and garlic to a medium-low dutch oven. Drizzle some olive oil in there too.  
  2. Add ground meat and cook until brown. You'll have to break it up with the spatula or spoon. 
  3. Add tomato paste and stir it in thoroughly. Cook for another 4-5 minutes or so. 
  4. Add red wine. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a spatula to deglaze. Stir well, and cook for another 5 minutes. 
  5. Add just enough water to cover the meat, toss in thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Add cumin and cloves.
  6. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to very low.
  7. Simmer, uncovered, for at least 1-1/2 to 2 hrs, stirring occasionally, until sauce becomes thick, rich, and turns burgundy-brown in color. 
Make the potatoes
  1. Cover peeled and sliced potatoes with cold water in a pan, bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. 
  2. Drain potatoes immediately and rinse in cold running water to prevent further cooking. 
  1. Grease a lasagna pan with butter on the bottom and sides. 
  2. Put down the a layer of potatoes, overlapping if needed to cover the bottom completely. 
  3. Sprinkle salt and fresh ground pepper over the potatoes. 
  4. Pour down half of the Bolognese over the potatoes and spread evenly with the back of the ladle. 
  5. Repeat steps 2-3-4, then 2-3 again. 
  6. Prepare the custard mix by whisking the eggs and half-and-half in a bowl. 
  7. Pour the custard mix over the pie evenly distributing it all over. 
  8. Spread the bread crumbs and the cheese over the top. 
  9. Bake Moussaka at 375F for about 50 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through (fork tender) and top is nicely browned. Let stand for 10 minutes out of the oven before serving.
Shopping List
Bolognese Sauce (double batch) 
1 large onion
2 large carrots
3 stalks celery
5 cloves garlic
olive oil
2 pounds ground lamb or beef
1 cup tomato paste (8 oz)
2 cups full-bodied red wine
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1-2 bay leaves

Custard, Layering and Topping (for one pie) 
3 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup grated cheese, such as Pecorino, Romano, Parmesan
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8" thick 

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