Cook: 1 hour 50 minutes | Yield: 8-10 servings
½ cup dried currants, soaked and drained
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound lean ground beef
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 (28 oz.) can plum tomatoes, pureed with juices
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 ½ cups canola oil, and more if needed
2 pounds eggplant, cut crosswise into 14-thick slices
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup flour
2 ½ cups milk
1 bay leaf
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 egg yolks
1 cup goat cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1 lemon, zested
Beef; –>> First, soak the currants in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 6-quart saucepan over high heat. Add the beef, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cayenne, and salt and pepper and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large strainer set over a bowl and drain; discard any liquid left in the pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the Serrano chiles and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 1 minute.
Return the beef to the pan, add the wine, and cook, stirring occasionally until almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and currants and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
Eggplant; –>> Heat the canola oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Season the eggplant slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the eggplant slices and fry until tender and lightly golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the eggplant slices to large bowl with paper towels.
Béchamel; –>> Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisk constantly, until pale and smooth, about 2 minutes. Still whisking, add the milk and bay leaf and cook until thickened. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg and discard the bay leaf. Let the sauce cool for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, goat cheese, and lemon zest and whisk into the bechamel sauce until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Butter a 3-quart (13 x 9-inch) baking dish or casserole dish and set aside.
Assemble the dish by putting half the eggplant slices in the baking dish and cover with half the meat sauce. Top the sauce with the remaining eggplant slices, and then the remaining meat sauce. Pour the béchamel over the top of the meat sauce and spread evenly using a rubber spatula. Sprinkle Romano evenly over the top, place the dish on a baking sheet, and bake until browned and bubbly, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired.
Note: Currants are tiny, dried black seedless grapes, packed with fruit flavor but not sweet. Raisins, on the other hand, are dried white grapes, and sweet. So you may substitute the dried currants with raisins should you wish a sweeter taste. Please do not soak in the raisins if you do so.
Bon Appétit! 🙂