There’s often a pound of ground lamb lurking somewhere in the Accidental Locavore’s freezer. It’s handy to have if you get the urge to stuff something — grape leaves, summer squash, tomatoes — and sometimes it’s great just to make burgers. Since I’m on a mission of sorts to make room in the freezer for my lamb share from Four Legs Farm (and fantasizing about a pork share), and the NY Times kept running this recipe, it recently became dinner for 3:
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and crushed (optional)
- ½ teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil, like canola
- 1 small red onion, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
- Potato buns, for serving
- Cilantro leaves, for serving
Create a flat-top cooking surface on a gas grill by using a couple of large cast-iron skillets, cast iron grill/griddle, or a thick metal sheet like a Baking Steel. Light the grill, and set the burners to medium. Lower top of grill, and allow it to heat.
If you’re using the Sichuan peppercorns, toast them in a small skillet over medium heat until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Then crush them with the flat part of a knife or a mortar and pestle.
Gently combine the lamb, cumin, Sichuan peppercorns, chile flakes and salt in a large bowl, then form into four equal-size balls.
Raise the lid of your grill, add the oil to the cooking surface and use a spatula to coat it, then place the onions and jalapeños on the surface, and fry them until lightly browned but still crunchy, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
Separate the vegetables into four piles with a good amount of space between them. (If using two pans, each pan should contain two piles.) Top each pile with one of the balls of meat. Use the spatula to smash the balls into flat patties, approximately 1/2 inch thick. Cook until the bottom of each patty is well browned and the meat is opaque about halfway to the top, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Flip each patty, and cook through, approximately 3 minutes for medium.
Place patties on buns, and top each one with cilantro leaves, serve and enjoy!
My verdict: This recipe is for four people, but ended up for three because we had less than a pound of lamb. These burgers were good, but spicy enough that you really didn’t get a sense of the lamb—it could have been any ground meat and might even be better with ground beef. Next time: more onion and less jalapeno. I liked the idea of grilling the vegetables and then embedding them into the meat; you could do it with a lot of other traditional burger toppings like mushrooms, you just have to be careful when flipping them to catch all the goodies. I used my le Creuset grill/griddle pan and it worked beautifully on the grill, and in inclement weather we could have easily done it on the stovetop. Think of this as a technique for playing around with your next batch of burgers and let me know what you come up with.