22 February 2009

Pastitsio (it's all Greek to me!)


I was very excited this week to receive another stamp on my culinary passport by making a Greek dish called Pastitsio.  Greek food and I seem to have a love/hate relationship.  It is not Greek food's fault, it's mine.  First, there was the incident sixteen years ago where I happened to get the flu a few hours after eating Greek food.  I'm sure it was totally coincidental, but it was so strongly linked in my mind for so long, that I have only been able to stomach the THOUGHT of Greek food for the past six years or so.  Then, there was moussaka incident...

Six years ago, when I was a relatively new cook and a brand-new stay-at-home mom (a few weeks before my first was born), I decided to be a very domestic wife and make my husband moussaka.  The recipe I had called for ground lamb and, being new to the area and a new cook, I didn't know if ground lamb was even something that one could purchase.  I bought 3 lbs. of lamb chops from my local supermarket and proceeded for the next two hours to feed them through an ancient, hand cranked, meat grinder that had once belonged to my husband's grandmother.  The moussaka was fabulous, but it took me about 5 hours to make from start to finish, another bad experience associated with Greek food.

Imagine my delight (and what can only be described as frustration?) last week, when I noticed that my local butcher carries ground lamb in his freezer section!  I had to pick up a few pounds as a tribute to my past-self grinding that meat by hand so many years ago.  Kalofagas had made a delicious looking Pastitsio a few weeks ago, and I had to try my hand at it, especially since he is judging, Tony Tahhan's Taste of the Mediterranean: Greek Pastitsio event.  Now Peter, I know you may be reading this and shaking your head at my interpretation of this recipe, but you have converted me to the beauty of Greek cuisine single-handedly, and for that, I thank you.

All of the recipes for Pastitsio I was finding used ground beef, but I really wanted to incorporate the ground lamb that I found.  What I ended up creating was elegant and delicious and yet so homey and filling.  I served it with a crisp white wine.  I did indeed enjoy my evening in Greece.

Pastitsio by Joie de vivre

Ingredients:

1 quart of 1% milk, divided
1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks), cut into 8 pieces each
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 Tbls. tapioca starch (may be called tapioca flour, cornstarch may be substituted)
10 eggs
1/4 c. olive oil
2 lbs. ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbls. tomato paste
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. rosemary
1 Tbls. fresh basil, minced
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. oregano
16 oz. penne rigate noodles
1 lb. grated Romano cheese
1 Tbls. chopped parsely, to finish

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Cook pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.
3.  Meanwhile, heat 3 1/2 cups milk and the butter over medium heat until almost boiling.  Mix together the other 1/2 cup milk with the flour and tapioca starch and slowly add to the hot milk mixture.  Whisk constantly until mixture resembles thickened pudding.  It should take about 5 minutes.  Set this mixture aside to cool while you make the meat sauce.
4.  Over medium-high heat, heat a separate large pot.  Add the olive oil and saute the onions until they are starting to soften.  Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add the ground lamb and cook, breaking up large chunks with a spoon, until browned.  Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, nutmeg, coriander, cloves, and oregano to the pan along with the tomatoes and tomato paste.  Simmer for a few minutes until the meat is cooked through.
5.  Drain the meat and remove the bay leaves.  Set the meat mixture aside.
6.  By now, your milk mixture will be slightly cooled.  In a large bowl, crack all 10 eggs and whisk to break up the yolks.  Take a ladle-full of the hot milk mixture and SLOWLY pour into the eggs WHILE whisking the eggs vigorously.  Repeat with a second and third ladle-full, whisking the eggs continuously as you SLOWLY pour in the hot milk.  Now, take the egg mixture and slowly pour the whole thing into the rest of the hot milk mixture.  This is your bechamel sauce.
7.  You are now ready to start assembling your Pastitsio!
8.  Butter a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish and place on top of a cookie pan.  Layer 1/2 of the cooked pasta on the bottom of the dish.  Cover this with 1/2 of the meat mixture.  Next, sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded Romano cheese on top.  Repeat these steps one more time by layering the rest of the noodles, the rest of the meat mixture and another 1/3 of the grated cheese.
9.  Pour 3/4 of the bechamel sauce on top of your Pastitsio.  Sprinkle with 1/2 of the remaining cheese. 
10.  Bake the Pastitsio for 5 minutes and remove from the oven.  Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Add the remaining bechamel sauce and the rest of the grated cheese to the top of the Pastitsio.  Place the Pastitsio in the oven and bake for an additional 45 minutes.
11.  Let the Pastitsio cool for about 5-10 minutes before slicing into squares.  Sprinkle chopped parsley over each serving.


 


35 comments:

Meg said...

I am so impressed! Looks amazing!

Donna-FFW said...

WOW! What a lot of work went into this recipe. It looks so delicious! I have never made it myself either. Fantastic .. love your passport idea;)

Cathy said...

Good work!! Pastitio is a delicious recipe full of complex flavours. If you ever want to make a "fast" version check out my blog for greek pasta. It incorporates ricotta cheese instead of making a bechamel sauce. Not quite as good as the real thing, but still delicious.

Netts Nook said...

Looks great I will have to try this one we are going to Greece in a few weeks.

5 Star Foodie said...

Pastitsio is one of my favorite Greek dishes - love it!

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

I've been seeing pastitsio all over blogs, but have never tried it. Looks really great!

Peter M said...

What a wonderful surprise to see this come through my reader. I think your take is refreshing and it does look delish.

One of the goals of the Greek stopover in ATOM is to get more people cooking Greek food. Part of that is allowing for some creativity in the kitchen.

I'd rather have people cooking Greek-inspired dishes than none at all!

Thanks for participating and don't forget to send the linked recipe to Tony for the round-up.

Wandering Coyote said...

Gee, I've been seeing so much pastitsio on the food blogs lately! It's great. I love pastitsio and have a really good recipe from Canadian Living Magazine that I make every so often. Hmm...maybe the universe is telling me something...Maybe I need to actually make some pastitsio...

Chef E said...

This looks and sounds so good...wondering if I could make a version for my eating lifestyle change...

My short flu symptoms came after eating a friends chicken and rice gravy, and I still cannot bare to look at those combination's :)

Bob said...

Oh man, there is Greek food all over the place lately! That looks wicked good. I love pastitsio, there is a place near me that does a great one.

Reeni♥ said...

I'm sorry about your unfortunate incidents with Greek food. I made this dish for the first time a few months ago and loved it. You did a great job, it looks wonderful!

Jill said...

Oh I love Pastitsio! It was an absolute favorite of mine while I lived in Greece. Yours looks delicious. You have inspired me to make some. Where did you find the lamb?

Kanella said...

Am so glad you decided to give a greek inspired dish a chance. If you can't find ground lamb, try using a combo of ground veal and beef.

Chef E said...

I got my starter going this week, and its bubbling, showed hubby and he cannot wait to travel to Africa...

toxobread said...

Very nice! I imagine this pastitsio took its fair share of time to make but gone now are your hand-grinding lamb chop days, right?

(+Thanks for dropping by my blog!)

- Jackie (Toxo Bread)

Varsha Vipins said...

Delish Pastitsio..I love anything in yellow..:D

The Peanut Butter Boy said...

I've been seeing this more and more lately, I gotta give it a try. Looks outstanding

Tangled Noodle said...

This looks tremendous! Pastitsio has it all - the noodles, the creamy bechamel sauce, the ground meat (and nothing beats the flavor of lamb). Great job and good for you for not being thwarted by that long ago experience!

Danielle said...

I have never had this before but I love all the flavor! It's kinda of like a really kicked up mac n' cheese. YUM!

Chef E said...

The trick was warm water and I shook it up, and it is already up half way...Doro Watt is chicken in Ethiopian spices, mainly Berber, or Doro Aleche is not spicy...but many areas of Ethiopia has their own recipes...mine is a blend...I cannot wait to see what you have...email me at elizabeth@cookappeal.com

Antonio Tahhan said...

isn't pastitsio awesome?! I'm so glad it turned out great for you :) and kudos to you for cranking out the ground beef by hand for the moussaka.
thanks for participating!

Fifi Flowers said...

That sounds DELISH!

MeetaK said...

This looks totally d'lish. Great job on collecting the stamp!

Mary-Laure said...

I totally love the idea of culinary stamps on your kitchen passport.

A World in a PAN said...

I poach whole pears (for ex. in red wine ) but have never baked them. I was wondering if you had had a chance to do baked pears over the weekend.

Beth said...

I love pastitsio - looks delicious

TavoLini said...

I LOOOOOOVE Greek food! Glad you found some ground lamb :)

lisaiscooking said...

I've been hearing a lot about pastitsio lately, and yours looks fantastic! I'll have to trying making it one of these days.

pigpigscorner said...

Oh wow, what a long list of ingredients! But definitely worth it looks really delicious!

Mommy Gourmet said...

Oh yumm. I love pastitsio!

Laurie Constantino said...

Greek food is wonderful - I'm glad you were able to overcome your bad experiences and try it again!! Though dishes like Pastitsio and Moussaka are complicated, there are an awful lot of Greek dishes that are simple and straightforward, so I hope you try some of them too!!!! :-)
As for your pastitsio, it's gorgeous and the picture quite mouth-watering. Good job!

Olga said...

Congratulations on getting another stamp :)
Sometimes I forget to try to cook things out of my comfort zone.

Sam said...

That's a dish I really want to try, yours looks fantastic!

emily said...

Gorgeous! I particularlly loved the story of you grinding your own lamb! You are such a trooper! The fact that you finished and didn't throw the whole lot in the trash is a real testiment to your character.

Best,
Emily
www.justeatfood.com

Diana said...

I bookmarked this one! I love Greek food, and grinding my own lamb totally sounds like something I would do to try and save some money. Like the time I had peanuts but no peanut butter and decided I would pound out my own with a flashlight. It actually worked!

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