Grilling "season" is a funny idea to me. Rain, shine, or snow, meat gets seared on the grill at our house throughout the year. I'd write our habit of grilling, regardless of weather, off to the convenience of having the grill right on our balcony except that we did the same when we had it in a courtyard and shared it with our neighbors. Our grill is a four season operation, no time off.
But because it is the weekend (or it was!) and because the culture around us says it is grilling season (have you seen the grilling season signs at Sur la Table or Bed Bath & Beyond?!?), I figured we'd break ground on the blog with ...ground lamb on the grill- the Lamburger!
After much trial and not very much error, we, and by we I mean the husband, perfected the lamburger and we, meaning I... am ready to share it. This lamburger is new and familiar at the same time, challenging yet simple, rich but not overwhelming. The recipe is original and its secrets rest as much in ingredients, as they do in preparation and equipment- the grill that is. Details matter, temperatures make all the difference, quality of what goes into the final product is key. Presentation is fun too- open face for sure!
If I were to list the secrets of this lamburger, I'd say: Colorado lamb, lovage, the Big Green Egg. You need quality ground lamb; this is actually probably the most important thing you can do to have a good lamburger. Colorado ground lamb is delicious so if you can get it, that is your best bet. Grocery store lamb is generally too strong for most people- the smell that is- with a game-like flavor. We get ours at the Boulder Farmers Market from a local farm. Just be sure you don't get duped by Whole Foods lamb imported from New Zealand.
The other key ingredient is lovage. Lovage is an herb that looks kind of like a giant italian parsley leaf crossed with a smaller celery root leaf. It has an amazing flavor and will definitely change the way a burger tastes. It is common in Southern and Eastern European cuisine - I had plenty of it in Romania- and is generally used to season soups and stews. Alice Waters uses it in hamburgers, which is where we got our idea from.
I bet you've never had lovage before! You should be able to find it at the farmers market. In Boulder, Red Wagon has it. I doubt that you will find it in a regular grocery store.
The kind of grill you make your burgers on makes a big difference. We are very committed to the Big Green Egg. If that is not your grill, consider buying one. No no...seriously, at least use wood charcoal. Briquettes (made of saw dust) are not an option. Mesquite charcoal is pretty amazing but not compatible with the 'Egg.'
With those few secrets out of the way...here it comes...
the Colorado Lamburger!
Ingredients- for the patties: 1 lb Colorado ground lamb; 3 large garlic cloves minced; 1/4 preserved lemon (1 wedge), rinsed and minced finely; 3-4 large lovage leaves chopped finely; kosher salt; fresh ground pepper, a drizzle of olive oil. To assemble: 1/2 white onion sliced into 1/4 inch pieces; 4 large slices of great bread (we use the Denver Bread Company boule); Dijon mustard; a handful of fresh baby arugula.
Fire up your charcoal grill. Give it enough time to get the temperature up to 400 degrees and to have your coals hot and all the way gray.
Make the patties- mix everything together and taste it--I know it's raw, but taste it--it won’t kill you and you might find it to be actually tasty. I do. Form five or six patties and set aside.
Sprinkle the onions with a little salt and drizzle with olive oil. Mix to get them coated somewhat evenly. You want to grill the onions first. A grill pan helps; otherwise your grill grate will be very tempted to swallow them up. Get a nice char on them for 2-3 minutes monitoring closely so you don't burn them and set them aside.
Put your patties on in the middle of the grill where it is nice and hot. Keep the grill covered while you cook the burgers but allow the vents to be open. Two-three minutes later open up and flip them. You want to cook them about two to three minutes per side.
Quickly brush the bread on both sides with a little olive oil and place it next to the patties on the grill. The goal is to warm it up and get a nice char on it.
Take everything off the grill. Lather the bread with a little Dijon mustard. Add the lamburger patty. Top with some of the grilled onions and a few arugula leaves. Open face!
Once the burgers are ready, you want to get eating. They cool very quickly and lose a lot of the juiciness and freshness the longer you wait. Have fun grilling!
Photography by Jennifer Olson.