Field Notes

The Ultimate Lamb Burger

Since it’s burger season, we’ve dedicated ourselves to the quest of making a better burger. Grilled or pan-fried? Diner or bistro-style? Beef, or something more alternative? We’re looking forward to the many taste tests it will require to answer these questions for ourselves.

But one recent experiment has already proved worth sharing: a lamb burger, ground with our Forager’s Blend chili butter and topped with lemony vegetables. The key to the success of this burger: foregoing the pre-ground packages of lamb. Purchasing whole cuts and then grinding them to order with a food processor or meat grinder attachment offers more control over the finished product.

And the less you handle your meat, the better the final texture will be (think delicious and tender over sponge-y and dry. Chilling the meat and pulsing it in a food processor can help avoid overmixing. The chili butter adds both seasoning and extra fat to the grind. The spice mellows considerably in cooking, so if you’d like your burgers spicy, consider adding more chili butter to the blend.

Makes 6 burgers

  • 2 pounds boneless lamb leg or shoulder
  • High quality feta, packed in water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup Chili Lab Forager’s Blend chili butter
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Canola oil
  • English muffins or hamburger buns, toasted

Cut the lamb into 2-inch cubes. Arrange on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes.

While the lamb is chilling, place the feta and 1 tablespoon of its liquid in the food processor and puree. With the motor running, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and a generous amount of cracked pepper. Process until smooth, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Take the lamb from the freezer and season lightly with salt. Working in batches, add a ¼ of the lamb to the bowl of a food processor with 1 tablespoon chili butter. Pulse 20 to 30 times, until the lamb is coarsely ground. Repeat with the remaining lamb and chili butter. Use your hands to form the coarsely ground lamb into 6 equally sized patties, taking care not to overwork the meat.  Season the surface of each patty with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a small bowl, add the zucchini, radishes and onion and dress with the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and some salt. Set aside.

In a cast iron skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon canola oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the patties, taking care not to crowd the pan (you may have to work in batches). Cook the burgers for 5 minutes on one side, then flip and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the burgers to a plate and let rest at least 5 minutes.

Assemble the burgers: place the bottom half of an English muffin on a plate. Smear it with a spoonful of the whipped feta, then top with a lamb patty and some of the vegetables. Complete with the top half of the muffin. Repeat with the remaining burgers, and serve.