A friend gave me a slow cooker recipe for this popular Greek dish that I think is every bit as good as the oven-baked varieties, although if you want the topping to be brown, you need to use the broiler oven at the end of the cooking process to achieve this.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 small- to medium-sized egg plants, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 can (14 oz.) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups milk
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
  • ¾ cup Cheddar cheese (or preferably, Kefolotiri, if you can find it)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs

Here’s what to do:

  • Place the eggplant slices in a large strainer, positioning them in alternating layers with salt sprinkled on each layer. Allow the excess liquid to drain from the eggplant; then rinse the slices under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels.
  •  Brush the eggplant with olive oil (reserve half of the olive oil for later use), and then place the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Position the baking sheet under the broiler oven and cook until the slices are soft and lightly browned; then turn the slices to brown the other side. You may have to use two baking sheets, depending on the number of eggplant slices you have; or, if you’re using one baking sheet, you can simply repeat the process if you cannot fit all of the slices in a single layer on one baking sheet.
  • Place half the eggplant slices on the bottom of the crock pot; then turn the slow cooker to the high heat setting. Set aside the other half of the eggplant slices.
  • In a heavy skillet, heat the rest of the olive oil and sauté the onions (over medium-high heat) until softened; then add the garlic and the ground lamb and cook until the meat is nicely browned.
  • Add the oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and the can of tomatoes to the skillet; mix well; and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Once the mixture in the skillet begins to boil, remove the skillet from the heat and pour the contents into the slow cooker, covering the eggplant slices.
  • Place the remaining eggplant slices on top of the meat mixture, cover, and cook on high heat for two hours.
  • When the two hours cooking time has nearly elapsed, prepare the cheese topping. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the flour, and stir over medium heat for about one minute; then gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until it has thickened; then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nutmeg and two-thirds of the cheese.
  • After the sauce has cooled about five minutes, beat in the egg yolk. Make sure the sauce is not too hot, otherwise the egg yolk might scramble.
  • Pour the sauce into the crock pot, cover, and cook for an additional two hours.
  • Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and the remaining one-third of the cheese over the top of the moussaka; then place the crock pot under the broiler oven for several minutes to brown the top of the sauce. This step is purely optional, but I think it makes the dish look and taste even better. If you don’t want to use the broiler oven, simply cover the crock pot and cook for another five to ten minutes or so.

I usually avoid slow cooker recipes like this one, which have several auxiliary steps that are required to produce the finished dish. I most often prefer recipes in which you simply throw everything into the crock pot, set the heat on low, and forget about it until the dish is ready to serve; but this recipe looked so good that I thought I would break with tradition. The result was better than I expected, so I guess the extra steps preparing this entrée were well worth the effort.

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