May 28, 2007
The Lamb Lies Down on
Occasionally, a man looks at a burger and says, If variety is the spice
of life, then why have all my meat patties ever been made of steer. A
lucky few can attest to the potential for pattied turkey or venison, but
we generally consider something like lamb to be a bit high brow to land
between a bun.
This is elitism of the worst kind, to forever relegate pattied meat to
second-tier status. Oh, for a world without prejudice!
Some of this might be attributed to our general attitude toward ground
lamb. Turning ground lamb into pattied meat is a simple process, and
perhaps the most difficult step is finding a store or butcher
broad-minded enough to offer ground lamb. The same bigotry that ascribes
second-class status to pattied meat is also behind the high-falootin
frame in which we place lamb.
Ground lamb is much like ground beef, except leaner. As a result, the
odds that it will break apart during cooking are higher. You can solve
this with the addition of bread crumbs. Mash the meat with your hands
before and after. The difference will be obvious.
There is another difference taste. Beef can be flavored from the
outside with toppings. Lamb offers the opportunity to flavor from
Add to the ground lamb chopped fresh rosemary and chopped fresh mint.
Both have long-standing relationships with lamb, either through the
flavoring of flesh or the application of jellies to roasted meat.
These principle players are supported by a cast of red onion and garlic.
The typical relationship between onion and pattied meat is through the
lay of one atop the other. Here, combine the two before cooking
You have now grabbed a knife to chop the onion into small pieces. Put
the knife away, for the love of food. There is a better way. Grab
instead your grater.
Onion that is grated has already released much of its onion-y goodness,
something paramount if your cooking time is as short as it is for
pattied meat. There is something also to be said for the symmetry of
cooking. Chunked onion and ground meat are not compatible in
construction. Keep this thought in your head as you move forward, for it
will unlock riddles right before eating.
is important to keep the short cooking time in mind when addressing
garlic. Garlic minced through a mill has already released its juices.
This skips the very messy and very warm process of heating it in a
Mash all of it together so that the onion, garlic, herbs and breadcrumbs
are evenly spread throughout the meat. You should be able to form
patties that stay together reasonably well when cooked, either in a
skillet or preferably atop the glowing coals of the common outdoor
Once your patties are cooked, place atop your typical bun. Atypical,
however, is how to finish the equation, with feta cheese and baby
Spinach and feta cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly or a
pirate and an eyepatch. There is the issue, however, of the physical
form of feta cheese. Cheese lain over the top of pattied meat is best
when it lays flat. This prohibits it from gashing the bun unnecessarily.
Feta cheese, however, comes in the form of chunks or in a way very
typically called crumbled. Placed between a burger and a bun, there is a
high chance that it will take this mismatch as some kind of insult and
attempt to flee during consumption, jumping from between the bun and
burger whenever the two separate.
The solution is this mash your feta cheese together with diced and
pitted Kalamata olives. The two are longtime companions, usually seen
together in salad form, but dont often get the opportunity to
commiserate at such close quarters. Cheese and olive will find much to
talk about, and the crumbled feta will feel less inclined to depart.
There are some who might argue that you could short-circuit this, and
eliminate the need for the olives, by substituting pita halves for the
bun. This is certainly an option, although the pita is constructed best
for meat that is sliced rather than pattied.
You might also be tempted, by habit, to add things like ketchup, mustard
and pickles. No! screams your inner voice, No! No! No! There is a
time and place for everything, but the garish reds and yellows of common
condiments defeat the purpose of constructing a patty that is different.
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