May 29, 2009
If you’re scared of this recipe already, bear with me. Let me work with you. I know you’ve been hurt by lamb in the past, but this time things will be different, I promise. It’s not your fault that the lamb in your life has been over-cooked and served with mint jelly. It doesn’t have to be that way.
See? That looks tasty, no? Can you give lamb another chance?
I’ve made this recipe a few times, with lamb skeptics in the crowd each go-around. My latest convert is none other than Sonya, our esteemed photographer, who had her first lamb burger last weekend at the end of a marathon cooking-and-picture-taking day. When I told her I was planning to post about the burgers today, she said “Man, I’ve been craving those all week!” Guess I’m going to have to make some more soon.
The only complicated thing about this recipe is locating the necessary ingredients. Depending on where you live, this actually may not be so complicated! Most “mainstream” grocery stores sell ground lamb, and if you don’t see it out front, ask nicely at the meat counter; chances are they can grind some up for you.
Another option to check out is your local halal meat market, should you have one. Halal is the rough Islamic equivalent of “kosher”–like kosher meat, any meat labeled “halal” has come from an animal slaughtered in a specific way designed to ease the animal’s suffering. One unique feature of halal meat is that all of the blood is drained before it’s sold. This makes it a great choice for anyone feeling a little uncertain about the flavor of lamb, since draining the blood makes the flavor of the meat much more mild.
Continuing down the ingredient list…
feta–the pre-crumbled kind is easiest here, but use whatever you like.
pine nuts–I love these things. I throw them in pasta or serve them with roasted broccoli & fat shavings of Parmesan. And, they add the perfect toothsome texture to these burgers–really, don’t leave them out. Store any extras you have in the fridge to keep them from going rancid.
the herbs–fresh really is best (and hey, mint is super-easy to grow!), but if you buy from the store, keep your leftover herbage (to coin an Alton Brown term) in the crisper, nestled into a large Ziploc bag with a paper towel. I can seriously keep flat-leaf parsley going for a month this way.
allspice–you may not already have this around, but it adds amazing flavor to all kinds of things: jerk-style chicken, chili, baked goods, homemade sausage, barbecue sauce, etc.
Simply put, these burgers are GOOD. I’ll bet you could make them for people without telling them they were lamb, and the people would eat them, and the people would like them, and then you could surprise the people, but I guess that’s a little bit sneaky/unethical, huh?
Have you ever “converted” someone to liking an ingredient they previously disliked? Or been converted? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Comment away.
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (if you absolutely can’t stomach the thought, substitute ground turkey)
1/2 cup feta (or other goat cheese), crumbled
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup each fresh mint & flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T allspice
zest of one lemon (optional)
salt & pepper
accompaniments: hamburger buns, sliced cucumber, red onion, dill mayonnaise* OR pita bread, cucumber, onion, tzatziki sauce*
Saute garlic & onion in olive oil over medium-low heat until translucent. Allow to cool a bit before combining with the other ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly–hands are best for this!–and form into patties. Traditional hamburger-style, I recommend you make your burgers wider than the buns you plan to use, as the patties will shrink when you cook them. I got six out of my last batch.
Alternately, if you’re serving with pita, make a bunch of small, flat-meatball-ish sized patties (about 12-15) so they’ll stuff into the pocket more easily.
Heat up your grill pan or outdoor grill (I don’t recommend outside if you are making small patties–they don’t skewer well). Grill over medium-high heat on both sides to achieve a nice, brown crust. Either turn heat down or move burgers to indirect heat and continue cooking until desired doneness is reached (we like a little pink in the middle). On my stove-top grill pan, one batch took approximately 8-10 minutes.
Serve immediately with accompaniments. Enjoy!
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 T fresh dill, chopped or 1 tsp. dried
1 clove garlic, minced fine
Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. Resist the urge to slather this all over everything. (Or, if you’re me, fail to resist said urge).
This is a traditional Greek condiment, so it works best with thick, Greek-style yogurt. If you can’t find that, use plain, full-fat yogurt.
1 cup plain yogurt
1 small cucumber, peeled & grated
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh dill or 1/2 tsp. dried
juice of half a lemon
Squeeze grated cucumber in a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Combine the rest of the ingredients–if you make this ahead of time, the garlic flavor will become more intense.