A humble party favorite goes to university and becomes
a bit more sophisticated. If you like this, the Snotty
Chef's Moussaká will be irresistable.
About 7-8 qts
INGREDIENTS (in order of use):
6 TBS olive oil, flavorful (or more, with lean beef)
2-4 @ small Turkish bay leaf
4 @ cloves garlic, minced (See Method steps #3, #11)
4 @ shallots, minced
4 lbs round beef steak, chuck or (?) ground
In a small bowl:
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon (cassia bark), ground
1 - 3 tsp cinnamon (cinnamonum verum), ground
1/2 - 1 tsp oregano (Use Greek oregano if possible)
1/8 - 1/4 tsp marjoram, dried, ground
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cumino, ground [optional variation]
1 - 2 TBS sweet paprika, generous
1 TBS beef bouillon, powder
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp salt
2 - 3 @ onions, cut in thin crescents
1/2 - 1 cup carrot, grated (a mellower, better than sugar)
2 TBS Cocktail Sherry, white or red wine
2 TBS Metaxá or Brandy
3 cup tomato purée
4 TBS tomato paste, mixed with
1 cup arbitrary mixture water & dry red wine,
or even Mavrodaphne - not retsina
If using Dreamfields elbows, use an additional
cup of liquid; a beef broth is good, so is chicken
broth or water with a little more wine, depending on
1/2 - 3/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 - 1 tsp lemon zest, grated
1 @ lemon, juice of (about 2-4 TBS)
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp tarragon, dried, crushed
12 oz elbow macaroni (16 oz. to stretch)
2 TBS butter
For the Custard:
8 TBS butter (lightly salted kind)
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 tsp white or black pepper, ground finely
8 TBS (rounded) all purpose flour
6 cup milk, warmed
1 1/2 cup heavy cream, cold, not warmed
8 @ eggs, jumbo, beaten smooth with a whisk
2 cup freshly grated kefalotiri, kasseri
or parmesan cheese
A LARGE skillet
A four quart saucepan
A medium sized pasta pot
[cooking separately: meat sauce, elbows and cheese custard]
1. Preheat Oven to 350, and prepare covered cassrole(s) to
accomodate the 7 qts of mixture by greasing them.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium high
heat, adding the bay leaves, and swirling the oil.
3. When the bay leaves begin to brown, add the garlic and shallots,
stirring until they just start to brown. [You can instead delay
adding the garlic to step 11 with the lemon.]
4. Add the beef, and stir until the meat looses its pinkness,
(no browning) and then,
5. Stir in the cinnamon, oregano, marjoram, cumino, paprika,
black pepper, salt and bouillon, collected in the bowl.
Stir for at least 1 minute.
6. Add onions and carrot and mix well.
7. Add the TBSs of wine and brandy, stirring until the alcohol
is mostly evaported, by the sniff of cupped hand test.
This should handle any pan deglazing that may or may not
have become necessary.
8. Add the tomato purée, mixing into all, following with the
water/wine & tomato paste mixture, and bring to bubbling.
9. Lower the temperature of the skillet to a very gentle simmer,
for about 20 minutes, leaving uncovered while the pasta and
custard are prepared. This cooking period is specifically
so that the sauce will thicken and the onions will be soft.
Crunchy onions are nice, but not here. When they are soft,
remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool.
10. Cook the elbows according to the direction on the package
shorting the cook time by about 2 minutes. Use some salt,
but not as much as you would usually. Drain the elbows,
but not excessively, and immediately toss with 2 TBS butter.
11. When the meat and sauce is simmered (This would be a good
time to check salt, and adjust.), you will have made all
that is necessary for what a Greek cook would call the
"saltsa kima", but we will go a little further: stir into
the merely warm sauce, the chopped parsley, lemon juice,
lemon zest, onion & garlic powders and tarragon - also the
chopped garlic, if you have delayed this at the beginning.
Combine meat sauce & par cooked pasta, and distribute
into the prepared cassarole(s), making the surface reasonably
smooth and level so the bottom meat and elbows are sealed
off against the custard top, especially at the edges, which
will be still quite a liquid when it is added.
Remember to leave plenty of room for the custard on top; we
use more custard here than is customary.
12. To prepare the custard topping, melt the 8 TBS of butter in
at least a four quart saucepan, over a moderate heat, adding
the nutmeg and pepper to the butter as it melts. They should
froth for about 15 seconds. That is also a visual for the
right temperature. We will be making a white roux.
13. Add the flour, whisking, and cook the flour in the butter, with
much stirring for about 5 minutes. This cooking time will
eliminate any raw starch taste from the sauce, as well,
bring out the flavors of nutmeg and pepper, and add a slight
pepper tang. Cooking ground black/white pepper in oil always
Remove the roux from heat, cover and allow to cool for
at least 10-15 minutes.
14. Whisk the mixture with reasonable intensity while
adding the warmed milk a few TBS at a time, at first whisking
these in fully before adding more. There will be no rapid
thickening, and we do not want flour lumps in the sauce. An
appropriate electric mixing device is very helpful here.
With the milk completely incorporated, return the "what will
become a thin béchamel sauce" to a moderate heat, stirring and
scraping constantly as it thickens. Remove from heat, stir
in the cream, cover and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
15. Now, whisk in the beaten eggs, and gently ladle the sauce
mixture into the cassarole(s), apportioning appropriately.
16. Again, proportionately, evenly distribute the grated cheese
over the surface of the sauce. It will sink into the sauce,
and become suspended in it as it melts, and the sauce becomes
a baked custard from the thickening by the eggs. If you like,
decorate with some random paprika sprinklings - or make
erotic paprika paintings, depending on your audience.
17. Bake covered for 30-60 mins, depending on the sizes of the
cassaroles. Allow to firm for at least 5 minutes before
serving. Served simply warm is better than served piping
Why not just have a Greek salad and some Red wine with it?
18. Yes, this keeps well refrigerated after cooking, and will reheat
very nicely in sliced serving portions in a microwave, gently,
or covered in oven, again gently of course, at about 200°F -
On reheating, it will lose a bit of its fragrant edge: nothing
terrible, but enough to be discernable to the educated nose and
palate. If this is your intended operation, definitely
use the upper levels of the spice and herb amounts.
0. Note that Pastitsio is a dish reminiscent of, and less
expensive than Moussaká, which exists in so many variations
thoughout the middle east that it is difficult to say:
where the word comes from (probably Arabic), what the word
actually means, and what the defining characteristics are.
The etymology of Pastitsio is thankfully a little easier: a
variatous dish made with pasta (which is a thing made with
some sort of paste). Is that not perfectly clear?
1. Pastitsio is a customary Greek party dish that stretches the
beef with lots of pasta, and creates interest with the simple
and unusual aromatic combination of cinnamon and oregano.
Pasta is a bit of a treat for me since I do not dare eat much
of it. This incarnation of Pastitsio keeps the carbohydrate
content to a minimum, so do not look for it to "stretch the
meat". The other difference between this version and most
others is that it is not at all stingy with the cheese custard
topping, just about doubling what is ordinarily used.
This is not only serious food, it is serious cuisine:
The garden variety Pastitsio but for its major fragrant interest
has almost a rustic simplicity to it, without garlic, shallot,
wine, brandy, and several other ingredients used here. While
a possible criticism of this version is that it seems to have
become Frenchified, the techniques and ingredients are all
typically Greek, so no whining about lack of authenticity.
The Snotty Chef has spoken.
2. The center of interest in the flavor of Pastitsio is the
perfect balance of oregano and cinnamon. You may want to
consider the ages and potencies of both of these to tweak
the amounts given here for that balance. Achieved aright,
the two flavors/aromas should merge into one, so that neither
one dominating the other gives the illusion of a single
3. Often it is said to make alternate layers of meat and pasta.
We find this to have a propensity to create layers of gummy
pasta, and so our suggestion is to mix the two so that the
flavors of the meat and sauce cook into the pasta and to
eliminate any gumminess of pasta that is cooked without the
proper amount of liquid. In the baking process, the pasta
will swell a bit as it absorbs water from the meat sauce,
firming up the meat body. It is unlikely, however, that
this will ever be servable by cutting, except after
refrigeration, and so it should be served as most
structured cassaroles using a large, flatish serving
spoon when still warm.
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