If you think you don’t like lamb, I strongly encourage you to try these burgers. As you’re all well aware, I am not the BIGGEST carnivore around – I don’t particularly enjoy the flavor of meat by itself (you’ll never find me diving into a giant steak), so if I am endorsing a meat-based dish, you know it’s good. Lamb can be very, very game-y, and it takes a little bit of work to amp up the surrounding flavors in the dish to mellow out that game-y flavor… and these burgers are just a perfect mix of rich lamb, fresh vegetables and herbs, and cool, creamy tzatziki.
Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta
For the burgers:
1 lb ground lamb
3-4 large mint leaves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh dill
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 a shallot, minced
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 oz crumbled feta
1/2 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
tzatziki (recipe below)
pickled red onions (recipe below)
small hamburger buns, or bread of choice*
For the tzatziki:
1 cup 2% or full fat greek yogurt
2 persian cucumbers (or half an English cucumber)
2 cloves garlic, grated
12 mint leaves, minced
1 T minced dill
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
For the onions:
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/4″ thick half moons
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T sugar
2 t kosher salt
*I used some mini ciabatta rolls for these burgers (the kind you buy at Trader Joe’s, that are par-baked), and I thought they were PERFECT. You want a bun that is a little more rigid and crusty than a typical hamburger bun, since these are kind of sloppy burgers – that tougher exterior prevents everything from getting soggy and falling apart.
1.) Start by making your pickled onions. Add the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a small saucepan, and set over medium heat. Heat the mixture until it’s just about to simmer, and all the sugar and salt have dissolved.
2.) Meanwhile, put your onions into a jar, or other glass container. Pour the hot pickling liquid over top of the onions, until they’re completely covered. Allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes before using. If you’re not using them right away, allow them to cool for about an hour, then seal the jar and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.
3.) While the onions pickle, make your tzatziki. Cut the cucumbers in half length-wise, and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds (even the “seedless” Persian or English cucumbers have some little, watery seeds, and I prefer to get rid of them to keep the tzatziki from getting too watery). Dice the cucumbers into a 1/4″ dice.
4.) In a mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, diced cucumbers, mint, dill, grated garlic, lemon juice, and a large pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Mix everything well, and set aside.
5.) Now, the burgers! In a large bowl, mix everything from the mint to the black pepper together. Add the ground lamb, and use your hands to work everything else into the meat, being careful not to over mix! Divide the lamb mixture into 6 equal portions, and shape them into patties.
6.) Heat a large skillet (or griddle) over medium heat, and add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Once it’s good and hot, add your burgers – be sure not to crowd them, and cook them in two batches if needed. Cook for about 5 minutes on the first side, and 3-4 minutes on the second side (if you opted to make fewer than 6 patties from the mixture, you’ll want to bump up the cook time a bit).
7.) While the burgers cook, toast your buns if you’d like. In another small bowl, mix the quartered cherry tomatoes and feta with a pinch of black pepper.
8.) Prepare to assemble your burgers. Personally, I HATE when my toppings are falling out all over the place – so, I tried a little trick with these burgers that I will definitely use again. Before toasting my buns, I pulled the excess bread out of the bottom half of the bun. This created a little little space to stuff my cherry tomato mixture, and greatly reduced the instance of escaped burger garnish. Your mileage may vary, but I suggest giving it a try.
9.) When the lamb burgers are cooked, it’s assembly time. Start with the bottom bun, and stuff the hollowed out space with the tomato and feta mixture. Top that with a burger, then a big spoonful of tzatziki, and then a little pile of pickled onions. On goes the top bun, and you’re ready to eat!
Now, you may be thinking – who the hell eats a 2.5oz burger?! Is this some sort of hipster “tiny food is so cute!” concoction? And to that, I say – TRUST ME. These burgers are RICH. Like, really, really rich. I thoroughly enjoyed every single bite of my burger, and I was totally content and full for many, many hours afterward. My personal opinion is that a regular-sized lamb burger (by which I mean 4-6 oz – I am not into the 12 ounce monster burgers some seem to favor) would be overwhelmingly rich, and leave you feeling like you have a rock in your stomach for the rest of the day.
Anyways, these burgers are insanely good. The lamb is definitely rich – but the acidic bite of the pickled onions and the tang from the tzatziki cut through the richness and balance it nicely. Add some salty feta and chewy ciabatta, and I might just slip into a food coma even TALKING about it.
Seriously, there is no need for a burger the size of a chevy,
(P.S. Don’t you DARE throw out those extra pickled onions. Put them on EVERYTHING until they’re gone: sandwiches, salads, breakfast burritos, nachos… those things are culinary gold. I’d stop short of adding them to a bowl of ice cream… but don’t think I haven’t considered it.)