Tzatziki Lamb Burgers. I’ve been on a lamb kick. It’s probably related to Spring Fever – even though until today, it’s been more like summer lately in Los Angeles.
This burger was inspired by the lamb leftover from a de-boning exercise gone terribly wrong and a fun weekend in Palm Springs that included group training on grinding your own burgers.
Which is interesting, because I didn’t think I needed to learn anything new about grinding meat. I’ve always used the blade attachment on the food processor and I’ve never been disappointed. I’m not a gadget guy. So I typically resist owning appliances or specialty tools that do one thing and one thing only. This weekend in the desert we used a grinding attachment on a stand-mixer that none of us had used enough to really understand its finer points. Which proved to be no big deal, because the meat grinder is great tool that’s easy to use. The results were beautiful. In fact perfect.
When I say “meat grinder” do you think about your Grandma’s big, hand-cranked piece of steel – the one Grandpa had to clamp to the kitchen counter? Do you simply refuse to screw that thing onto your gorgeous granite counter top. Well don’t worry, today’s stand-mixer attachments don’t even touch the counter, so you won’t need Grandpa. Besides, there’s always the food processor. I know you’re not afraid of the food processor. It does nearly as good a job as the grinder attachment – not perfect – but it’s close. Meaning I’m not quite ready to conquer my single-subject appliance phobia.
Tzatziki Lamb Burgers
Which brings me to Tzatziki Lamb Burgers. Sometimes I get creative when I’m deciding what to make for this blog – other times I turn to the classics for inspiration. When faced with freshly ground leftover lamb, I’m traditional enough to think “burger” and creative enough to think “Greek”. When I think Greek, my mind turns to the handheld gyros I’m old enough to incorrectly pronounce as “jiii-ROWs”.
Once I’d chosen a gyros (YEE-ros) approach to this burger I went to Google for inspiration. There are plenty of lamb burgers featuring tzatziki. I found nit-picky issues with a lot of them.
That’s because we cooks like to get clever. Once we have a theme we love to run with. Which means I saw a lot of Grecian influence lamb burgers with superfluous ingredients. Too many cucumbers. Too many herbs and spices. Too much opa! One version even featured bulgur – enough bulgur to seem vulgar to me (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
When I eat good quality meat I want to taste the meat. Which isn’t to say the meat should be unseasoned. Especially lamb. Lamb has a rich quality that lends itself to all sorts of big flavors. Whereas I might chose salt and pepper only to season a very good beef burger, I don’t mind getting a bit bolder when it comes to lamb burgers. Mint is a natural with lamb. It’s got an assertive flavor that’s strong enough to balance lamb’s tendency towards gaminess. However as I said, I tend to prefer my burgers simply seasoned. Big handfuls of fresh mint would change the texture of the meat too much for my tastes. So I chose dried mint. Dried herbs have a stronger, more condensed flavor than their fresh counterparts. I can get the punch and balance I’m looking for without filling up on chlorophyll. Not so with the fresh rosemary I added. I find the dried form of the herb too powerful for this burger. See what I mean about nit-picking?
Tzatziki is a different matter. It may be a thematic no-brainer, but its flavors are appropriate to this burger. In fact tzatziki is the first word in this recipe’s title. That’s because the cool, clean swipe of yogurt and cucumber is the best part of these Tzatziki Lamb Burgers. I’ve included a simple version of tzatziki in this recipe. Feel free to use your own recipe, or get as creative as you like.
Speaking of creative, I have to bring up the bun. The bun is not the place to get creative.
When it comes to a burger I like a soft bun. Greek-style Tzatziki Lamb Burgers seem to cry out for a pita container. Most of the recipes I came across chose this direction. I think a pita is fun idea, but perhaps too thematic. A pita lacks the absorbancy a good burger requires. The juices should run, and the bun should soak them up. Proportion is also important. The right ratio is about 50-50 burger to bun in every single bite. A pita could never accomplish this, it’s far too single-subject. GREG
Tzatziki Lamb Burgers