This time of year, with the holidays swirling around us, we sometimes find it hard to make a regular weekday dinner. 5-course extravaganzas? No problem. Cocktail party? Sure thing. Cookie exchange? Bring it on. But we can, and do, plan for the big stuff. Daily dinner for the family with work, sports, parties, exams and constantly shifting schedules is often more tricky. But over the years we built up a few recipes that are very, very good, but don’t take up a lot of time and have a few easy ingredients (and usually don’t involve a ton of cleanup). Cumin-Spiced Lamb Burgers is one of these dishes. Just a few ingredients, one pan, a little time and a lot of flavor.
And flavor really is the big benefit of using lamb. Lamb usually has more flavor than beef, and if you use the right cuts the flavor isn’t too “gamey”. Most lamb used to be imported from New Zealand and Australia, but these days there are many local grass-fed lamb suppliers (all over the USA) and the quality of the lamb is outstanding. With bright, clean flavor and juicy texture, lamb is worth a try. And this burger is a perfect introduction to lamb (our kids love all sorts of lamb, this was the “gateway” dish).
Our recipe is based on the world-famous lamb burger from the Breslin gastropub in New York City. A veritable who’s-who of food writers and celebrity chefs have waxed poetic and “foodgasmed” on TV over April Bloomfield’s burger (clearly all Food Network auditions require the ability to foodgasm on command). But to be fair, this is one fine burger. And just to top it off, the Breslin sources their meat from famous butcher (and self-promoter) Pat LaFreida. Pat has a special blend just for the Breslin. Sadly, Pat doesn’t do California. Happily for us, our local butcher gets a lamb in every week or so, they break it down on site and then freshly grind the trimmings. And their blend will do just fine for us. (We also get great local beef and lamb from Stemple Creek Ranch, so good.)
As for the recipe, it is incredibly easy to make these burgers. The Breslin’s recipe features a char-broiled rare-to-medium rare lamb patty, feta cheese, thinly sliced red onion, olive oil and seasoning on a warm Ciabatta roll. Good stuff. They also serve the lamb with cumin mayo, but we prefer to add salt and cumin directly to the meat. Cumin and lamb play very well together, but cumin is a strong flavor and you can omit if you like. We also use a cast iron skillet or grill pan on the stove (but boy would we like an indoor grill). The only real tricks in this recipe have to do with technique. You must rest the lamb burgers for 5-10 minutes after you cook them to let the juices settle in the meat, rather than running all over the plate. And if you put the slices of feta onto the patties while they rest, the cheese slightly melts on the burger. Yum. You really don’t need any sauce other than the olive oil and juices from the burger, but if you make a quick raita or cumin mayo, it will certainly taste good. And if you add a dash or two of Sriracha on top of the burger, we won’t tell…..