My Big Fat Greek Eggplant Casserole

READY IN: 3hrs
SERVES: 12
UNITS: US

INGREDIENTS

Nutrition
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DIRECTIONS

  • PREPARE EGGPLANT: Cut off the stem sections of 2 large fresh eggplants. Peel eggplant using a sharp vegetable peeler. Cut eggplants lengthwise in even 1/8" thick slices. Pour 1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil into a large microwave-safe bowl. Mash 2 garlic cloves using a garlic press and add to oil. Add 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper. Stir. Heat mixture in microwave about 30-45 seconds on high. Rub or brush the sliced eggplant with the oil mixture until lightly coated. Wipe the bowl clean with a paper towel and set aside. Arrange seasoned eggplant single-layer onto a flat-ridged or press-type grill on medium-high heat. When the eggplant has dark grill marks, turn and grill other side the same (skip turning eggplant if using a press-type grill). Allow eggplant to "sweat" until needed. Sprinkle, then pat, finished eggplant slices liberally using 1/2 cup powdered parmesan cheese.
  • IN a large food processor, chop 1 large onion, 1 medium bell pepper, one handful pitted kalamata olives, 1 handful flat leaf parsley leaves, and 8-12 garlic cloves.
  • HEAT 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; ADD the above chopped vegetables, 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper; SAUTE until meat is browned and vegetables have softened.
  • ADD 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, 3/4 cup dry greek red wine, 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons greek honey, 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 tablespoon ouzo or 1/4 teaspoon pure anise extract, 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried mint, 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper, 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese; STIR well; COVER; REDUCE heat; SIMMER for 45 minutes or longer (sauce will be thick); RE-SEASON sauce to taste with fine sea salt if needed (leave sauce just slightly under-salted since sauce will concentrate while baking).
  • INTO the previously wiped large bowl, separate 4 large eggs, retaining the yolks in bowl (refrigerate egg whites sealed, for another use while fresh);.
  • WHISK in 4 cups whole milk until smooth; ADD 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 level teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 pinch cayenne pepper; WHISK again until blended; SET aside.
  • MELT 1/2 cup salted butter over medium heat; ADD 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and cook for just one minute; POUR milk and egg mixture all at once into roux while whisking constantly; CONTINUE whisking often until sauce thickens up and begins to bubble; REMOVE from heat; WHISK in 3/4 cup powdered parmesan cheese until smooth and glossy; COVER loosely with plastic wrap; BLEND 1/2 cup of the BECHAMEL into the fully-simmered SAUCE.
  • PREHEAT oven to 350 F; OIL a 2-3 quart casserole dish with olive oil; SPREAD 1/2 (one half) of the EGGPLANT single-layer in bottom of baking dish; POUR the entire SAUCE mixture over top then smooth; ADD the remaining EGGPLANT over the SAUCE; POUR all of the BECHAMEL sauce over the eggplant; SMOOTH bechamel sauce. NOTE: YOU CAN SPRINKLE THE TOP OF CASSEROLE NOW LIGHTLY WITH GRATED PARMESAN CHEESE (PLUS MINCED FRESH PARSLEY IF DESIRED) OR YOU CAN GARNISH WHILE STILL HOT, JUST AFTER BAKING.
  • BAKE for 1 hour; ALLOW to rest 20 minutes before slicing.
  • SERVE and enjoy!
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