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I have a wonderful mousaka recipe which involves layers of baked potato, eggplant, and beef. It is topped with a cheesy bachamel and cooked until golden brown on top. It is very similar to a lasagna.

I would like to cook this dish for a party for 20 people. Unfortunately I cannot prepare everything immediate beforehand. So I would like to complete as much as possible a day in advance.

I could cook this dish completely and then reheat it in the oven before the party, but I'm afraid the bachamel top will over crisp and the bottom will burn.

Can I instead parcook this dish? I believe I could cool all the ingredients up until the point the bachamel is added, then chill it, and then simply bake as is for 1.5 hours until warmed through and the topping browns nicely.

Or should I worry about the sauce clumping or other concerns?

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My family does this with lasagne every year for Christmas. It works with most casseroles that are prepared in advance:

  • Make the casserole in advance, then either chill (if night before) or freeze (if a week before).
  • Place the cold dish in a cold oven, covered in aluminum foil, then turn it to medium-low heat (about 300°F/150°C).
  • Heat until the center of the casserole is sufficiently warmed through.
  • Turn the heat on the oven down to 'warm'

Just before guests arrive, make the bechamel. Keep it on low heat on the stovetop, stirring every 10-15 minutes or so.

  • (20-30 mins before service) uncover the casseroles
  • Top with some of the bechamel (reserving the rest so people can add extra as they wish)
  • Crank the oven to 'broil' or 'grill' or whatever they call the 'top only heat' setting in your country, and cook the top to desired brown-ness. If you don't have a broil/grill setting, move the casserole as close to the top element as you can without the food actually touching it, and turn the heat as high as the oven will go.
  • Remove the casserole and let rest to firm back up. (take notes on how long this time, as that'll affect the exact time when you start broiling the next time you do this).
  • Place the reserved bechamel in a gravy boat.
  • Slice & serve

Note that there's also bechamel in the lassagne we make -- so you just make a little bit less when making the casserole initially, if it's needed for middle layers as well.

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I think your idea is a good one. You can cook the whole thing thoroughly through, but without the topping. Then when you are ready, cook it at a higher than normal temp so the topping can brown properly while the inside just needs to get warmed up to serving temp.

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What I would do is in advance prepare the potato, eggplant and beef in the pan (fully cooked). Make your bechamel sauce. Assemble everything in the baking dish and put it in the fridge.

When your guests arrive, put it in the oven for a bit longer than usual (as it is cold), perhaps on a lower temperature, or with some foil on top to prevent it from drying out.

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