Penniless Dad's "Moussaka" Recipe - AKA Leftover Surprise

Apologies for all the food purists out there, as this is by far a really non traditional version of moussaka, a dish traditionally eaten in the Middle East and the Balkans. The most well known version of moussaka is the Greek one, made with layers of eggplant, ground meat (generally lamb) in tomato sauce, and topped with a bechamel sauce. However, there are many other versions of moussaka around the world, and this recipe actually does fit into the loose definition of moussaka, which is either eggplant (generally) or potatoes (in the Balkans), tomato sauce, sometimes meat, sometimes cheese, with many different variations. So even though none is actually like how my father makes it, the name is still technically correct.

I was cleaning out my fridge the other day and while deciding what things there were too far gone and needed tossing, and what could still be used, and I saw the following:

Leftovers from an antipasti platter I made, mostly roasted eggplant, and a tiny bit of zucchini and peppers. Hot dogs. Leftovers from a whole chicken that I cooked, plus some mushrooms and potatoes, and an open can of tomato paste.

As looked at those things, what immediately struck me was how this was literally the base of what my father would use to make what he'd call moussaka. But it really just was a way that he used up leftover chicken or turkey. As a kid I had no idea that it was that, and I loved it so much that one year on my birthday, when we would get to decide what would be for dinner, I asked for moussaka, and my father, bemused, obliged. I actually wrote about this once, over 10 years ago here on this blog, but who actually is reading posts that old, and I was a much worse blogger then than I am now, so here it is.

This recipe is allergy friendly, and free of all the common allergens such as gluten, dairy, or eggs, unlike many moussaka recipes. Feel free to play around with this recipe, since the point is to use up leftovers. I used mushrooms, a bit of zucchini and pepper, but feel free to add other vegetables if you want. Eggplant is necessary to make it moussaka (in my opinion) and I never do it without hot dogs, but the point is to take this idea and use up your leftovers in a way that appeals to you and yours. Be creative, have fun, and minimize waste. (I took the potatoes that were with my chicken and mushrooms and turned them into revamped mashed potatoes.)

Penniless Dad's "Moussaka" Recipe - AKA Leftover Surprise

Tomato paste
Leftover chicken or turkey
Leftover or fresh eggplant (I wouldn't use mashed eggplant though)
Other vegetables as desired
Hot dogs- leftover, such as from a barbecue or otherwise, or fresh
Garlic powder
Oregano and basil, optional

1. Debone your chicken or turkey. Remove cartilage and skin, but dried out meat is totally fine for this. Break the meat into smaller bits.

2. Chop an onion and saute it until translucent or darker, depending on your preference.

3. If using a fresh eggplant, chop into cubes and saute it until starting to change color slightly. 

4. If desired, slice the hot dogs and saute now, or you can add them later.

5. Add your deboned poultry, chopped up eggplant if yours was already cooked, sliced hot dogs, and any other chopped leftover vegetables to your pan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the meat is fully softened.

6. Add tomato paste and mix in, enough tomato paste that you have a not too thick or thin sauce, and add more water if needed.

7. Salt and season with garlic, and if desired/if your previous additions weren't flavorful enough, add dried oregano and/or dried basil to taste.

8. Serve hot, over pasta or rice.


What is your favorite thing to do with leftover chicken? Did you ever have a dish that you loved growing up or your kids love that was really just a "let's use up leftovers" dish? (My kids' one is rice pudding, which is how I use up leftover rice.) Does this look like a recipe you'd try?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Oh, absolutely I'd try it. Eggplant is sometimes hard to get but this sounds great.

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