(Hey, don't look at me like that!)
I wound up thawing a good sized package of venison chunks that were destined for the grinder by mistake. Of course I had to figure out something different to make with it. We had noticed the similarity between the venison and lamb – so Greek came to my mind, Pastitsio in particular.
I had discovered this recipe in a 1971 version of "The New York Times Cookbook" by Craig Claiborne many years ago and fell madly in love with it. It had been a long time since I'd made Pastitsio – perhaps having something to do with the cookbook going missing for many years, until I found another copy in a thrift shop. There were so many recipes I'd made from this book over the years, all of them wonderful, but this was always a favorite.
The original recipe makes 24 servings. I don't think I'd ever seen leftovers from it – but this time for 2 people I cut the quantities roughly in half (and we managed to gobble up a third of that in one night!) So, with adjustments made I give you the North Dakota version of a Greek classic!
Pastitsio1 lb elbow macaroni (I used Dream Fields low carb – to keep the dish lower in carbs, and because it's a North Dakota product)
8 Tbs. butter
1 Cup finely chopped onion
2 lbs ground venison – could use lamb or beef, but the venison was perfection.
1 15oz can tomato sauce
Salt & freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp oregano
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
4 Tbs. all-purpose flour
4 Cups milk
¾ Cup cream
3 egg yolks
¾ Cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water until tender but still firm . Drain and toss with a bit of olive oil, set aside.
Heat 4 Tbs. butter in a skillet and add the onion. Cook stirring until the onion is wilted. Add the meat and cook, breaking up the lumps of meat. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add the tomato sauce, salt & pepper, cinnamon, oregano, and nutmeg. Stir well, and cook over medium low heat until mixture thickens slightly.
In a saucepan melt remaining butter and stir in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for several minutes to cook off the flour taste. Heat the milk and add to the roux, stirring until thickened and smooth. Combine the cream and the egg yolks. Temper with some of the hot sauce and then add to the sauce and heat thoroughly – but do not boil as that will curdle the sauce.
Butter a 3 or 4 qt. Baking dish. Make a layer of macaroni, a layer of meat, another layer of macaroni, and another layer of meat. Pour the cream sauce over evenly, top with grated cheese. Bake 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand to firm up. Cut into large squares and serve.
We made a simple salad with cucumber, tomato, olives, peppers, dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and some Greek seasoning.
I have to say that Pastitsio will never be the same unless it's made with venison for me, but it's worth trying with beef or lamb if you can't get venison. I used more liquid in proportion than the original recipe called for since the venison was so lean. The extra moisture worked to keep the dish moist without adding more fat.