While I haven’t ventured much into the world of recipe writing and burger development, when I was contacted by Boston Chefs and the American Lamb Board to create a recipe using a leg of lamb, I couldn’t turn it down. Sure, the possibilities of cooking with a leg of lamb are pretty endless; marinating, rubbing, braising, grilling and on and on, but grinding up that beautifully marbled meat and turning it into a burger seemed like a no-brainer. Since it’s pretty much all beef all the time at Boston Burger Blog, I ask, where’s the love for lamb burgers? Yeah am I looking at you, Boston restaurants. Lamb is often labeled as “too gamey,” I call it too much flavor, and that’s not a problem in my book*. (*book pending)
The seasoning direction was a curious one; not wanting to go too basic or too cliched (ie Greek or Mediterranean) I debated about going off the beaten path; turns out flavor combinations are classic for a reason. I always beat the “classic burger” drum time and time again, surely a lamb burger deserved similar treatment.
I started by cutting two pounds of the lamb into 1 inch chunks, and began grinding it in my trusty Kitchen Aid attachment, fat and all. Once the meat was coarsely blended, I delicately formed them into patties, and dropped a tablespoon of honeyed goat cheese into the middle of each to form a stuffing, ala the Juicy Lucy. I knew I was only going to season the burgers with salt and pepper but there had to be another twist in there somewhere. This needed a sauce, and I almost always turn to aioli’s in my burgers. Ketchup has no place here (or in any burger really) so a toasted cumin and Dijon aioli became my condiment of choice. A pomegranate and olive salsa topped the burger, adding the necessary pop and saltiness to offset the strongly flavored lamb. Slapped between a soft and pillowy Portuguese Bun, this burger had everything I was looking for, maybe now we can start seeing more lamb burgers on local menu’s, please?!
Of course a burger without fries is completely pointless, and I had to make them the best way I know how; twice fried in Duck Fat. Why? Because it’s awesome that way. I threw in some sage before dropping the potatoes in the hot oil, giving a subtle aromatic aroma to the impending French Fries. Paired with my new buddy the Lamb Burger, and I was a pretty happy guy.
Goat Cheese-stuffed Lamb Burgers with Duck Fat Fries and toasted cumin aioli: (makes four burgers)
2 pounds leg of lamb, trimmed of silverskin but fat left on, and cut into 1 inch chunks
4 tablespoons goat cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1 pomegranate, seeds removed and reserved
2 tablespoons olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seed, toasted and pounded in a mortar and pestle
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon each fresh chopped sage and rosemary
1 cup olive oil
4 slices Aged Gouda
4 Portuguese Buns, warmed
2 large Idaho potatoes, scrubbed,cut into fries, rinsed and dried well
4 cups duck fat (may substitute canola oil, but why would you want to?)
Form the ground lamb into 4 patties and leave a small well in the center. Combine the goat cheese with the honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Push the goat cheese into the center of each patty and top with more ground lamb to fully cover. Set aside. Combine the pomegranate seeds, olives, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to gently incorporate. To make the aioli, mix the toasted cumin, Dijon, egg yolk and herbs in a small bowl with a good pinch of salt. Slowly add the oil, drop by drop, whisking constantly, until emulsified. Check for seasoning.
Meanwhile, bring the Duck Fat to 325 degrees in a saucepan, add the potatoes, cooking in two batches if necessary, and fry until limp and just cooked through, about 3-4 minute per batch. Put the Duck Fat back on the heat and bring the temperature up to 380 degrees. Add the sage leaves and fry until golden and crispy, about 1 minute, drain on paper towels. Drop the fries back in and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, season heavily with salt, and drain on paper towels.
To cook the lamb burgers; Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat for two minutes, add enough oil to coat the pan, and the oil for 1 minute. Carefully place the burgers in the pan, season the top with salt and pepper and let it cook until a crust forms on the other side, about 3-4 minutes. Flip the burger and season the other side with salt and pepper, add the cheese and cover with a lid to help it melt. Cook for 3 minutes and remove to a plate to let it rest for a minute. Place in between the bun and top with the pomegranate-olive salsa and aioli if desired. Serve the fries in a fancy cone if you have one, and serve the aioli on the side.
Boston Chefs is running a friendly competition among some of the best bloggers in town, all who were given a leg of lamb. Please check back here or on the Boston Chef’s website this coming Monday to cast your vote for yours truly. May the best lamb dish win!