National Burger Month 05/08/2011: Lamb Burger with Harissa and Yogurt

Mmm lamb. Cute lamb.

My original plan was to recreate my döner kebab burgers from three years ago. Instead, with a bowl-ful of ground lamb instead of strips of lamb sirloin, tonight's burgers were an adaptation of one of my favorite recipes. The basic components are similar: lamb, harissa sauce, yogurt, pita and a few greens. Preparation is also identical.

Stuff for the burgers:
1/2 pound of ground lamb
1/2 large onion, pureed
ground black pepper

I started with pureeing half an onion in my food processor. In the pureed onion, I mixed 1/2 pound of ground lamb. I salted and peppered this  and set it aside for two hours.

In the meantime, you can read a book, watch some Netflix, and make the harissa sauce.

Stuff for the harissa:
2 tomatoes, sliced in quarters
2 tbsp crushed chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp caraway seed
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt

All of this I mixed together in a food processor and salted some more to taste. This was set aside and can probably keep for a week in refrigeration.

Other stuff to top the burgers:
Some yogurt
Some salad greens
Some more tomatoes

The burgers were grilled for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes each side in medium to high heat. Patties are enveloped in pita bread, topped with yogurt, the harissa and some salad.

And that's it. Mmm lamb. Cute lamb. Tasty  lamb.

National Burger Month Day 30: A day for leftovers; A duo of decidedly non-kosher lamb burgers

To those people (one or two at most, I am sure) who are even keeping up (out of sheer boredom I am sure) with my observance of National Burger Month, I apologize for being remiss in my blog updates. The parental units are visiting burger headquarters and all sort of work has gone into schlepping around town entertaining the guests. Through this all, I remained dedicated to the last two days of National Burger Month and I did really end with a bang. This post is a little catching up with the month update.

NBM Day 30 was supposed to be part of my trifecta of triumphant burgers for closing out the celebration (day 1 was my döner burger). I planned to make a Filipino Crispy Pata burger. Crispy Pata is a Filipino dish where they poach a pork shank for a while, and then deep fry it, hence adding the crispy to its name. I had elaborate plans for procuring a pork shank, boiling it, then chopping it up into bits before forming patties for the deep fryer. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pork shank in time, and with the impending parental visit, had barely enough time to clean the house, and no time to make day two of my trifecta of triumphant burgers for closing out the celebration. All I had were leftovers.

Stupid me, I didn't label my minced meat. I didn't know if I was making a pork burger or a lamb burger, and my nose is not sensitive enough to tell apart one batch of uncooked meat from another. So to solve my identification problem, I just made the pork sleep with the lamb-- the perfect unkosher combination caught in a bout of interspecies melding. I topped the frankenburgers with more leftover stuff-- spinach, tomatoes and goat cheese. The results wasn't bad at all. I made a duo of frankenburgers, one in a traditional bun and the other in a pita.

National Burger Month Day 29: Döner Kebab Burger

On Adalbertsr. 10, in Kreuzberg, Berlin is Hasir's Restaurant. According to my Döner Kebab trading cards, Hasir is "Das Geburtshaus der Dönertasche!" So the story goes that Hasir, a Turkish immigrant in Berlin invented the döner kebab in 1971. Everyone liked it, and now it's the most popular sandwich in Germany. They had similarly prepared meats in Turkey prior to 1970, for sure. Berlin, after all, does not have a monopoly on meat on a spit. And neither does Turkey. There are other versions of this preparation-- gyros, shawarmas, etc. But the particular sandwich as prepared by Mr. Hasir was a thing of beauty. I cannot put into words how wonderful a sandwich he made. I lie awake at night dreaming of eating one of these things again.

Anyway, I decided, for National Burger Month, to attempt to assemble my own döner kebab and turn it into a burger. The night was fraught with challenges. My largest obstacle was the reality of not owning an upright rotisserie grill. So making my kebabs on a regular bbq grill was a little bit of a compromise. I must get a "Set it and forget it" rotisserie oven for future döner kebab construction.

Stuff for döner:
1 lb lamb sirloin
1/2 lb ground lamb
1 large onion
salt and pepper

Stuff for harissa (sauce):
1 large tomato
2 tbsp crushed chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp caraway seed
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt

cute lil döners

The night before grilling, I took the lamb sirloin and sliced it up into 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thick slices. I also tossed the onion in a food processor and pureed the living daylights out of it until I got onion juice. The lamb strips I marinated in the onion puree overnight and tossed in about 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper.

In the meantime, I made the harissa sauce. I just took everything in the stuff list and mixed it all up in a food processor. Instead of the fresh tomato, I used some canned plum tomato that was sitting in the fridge.

Finally-- the lamb was taken from its onion bath and mixed in with some ground lamb. I made two batches. One batch I threaded onto skewers (so that I could see if I was capable of making real döner kebabs) and another batch I chopped up into smaller bits and mixed with even more ground lamb to form into patties. These were then placed onto the grill. To replicate the rotisserie oven effect, I sat over the grill and hummed like a machine while I continuously turned the skewered meat around. And for the most part, we had some pretty cute looking miniature döners. John suggested that I take out a tiny knife when it cooks and slice little tiny döner strips. and put them into little tiny flat bread. But I digress. This humming and turning worked for about five minutes. And then we had an emergency. I had just put my burger on the grill and noticed that the grill no longer spewed fire. Tongues of orange flames no longer licked the bottoms of my hunks of meat. After 28 days of working overtime for my burgers, my grill ran out of propane gas.


Dejected but undeterred, I awakened my oven and stove from their slumber and like worker ants, they reported to duty and did their tasks. I finished the burger and the kebabs in the oven, searing the burger first on a hot cast iron skillet before sticking it in the heat.

oh, my pretty burger

The burger I topped with a little harissa sauce and a little yogurt and sandwiched in between two pieces of mini pita bread-- a huge compromise for a döner since the döner pitas are thicker. Another big compromise was that my yogurt wasn't herby yogurt. I should've made a garlic yogurt sauce. In the end, though, this was an amazing, amazing burger. And the döner I will make again as a matter of principle. I must have my döners.

What an epic, earthshattering burger.

National Burger Month Day 17: Classic Lamb Burger

Saturday night was leftover night. After 16 days of burgers, I had to clear some of my pantry. I guess I could've done more with the burger, but I was hungry and couldn't spend much time thinking of dressing this up more. I had lamb in the fridge, and so inspired by a roast leg of lamb I used to do, I just did the burger in that style. Very simple.

I took minced garlic (lots), garlic salt, pepper, dried rosemary and a few drips of red wine, and rubbed the burger in it. That's it. It was simple and tasty.

And then I turned on the TV (car's broken, I'm gimpy, can't get out of the house), and found that the Food Network had one of their boring Food Network Challenges shows on. Why is everything on the Food Network just about challenges these days? I miss real cooking shows. Anyway, this time they weren't doing just any old challenge. They were doing the Build-a-Better-Burger Challenge. And as if I hadn't gotten enough burger for the month, I just sat there, a rapt viewer of burgers.

National Burger Month Day 13: Inside-Out Lamb Cheeseburger

After the huge productions that the last few burgers became, tonight's burger was an almost effortless project. At least in appearance, it was the most traditional-looking burger I've had in a while. I made an inside-out lamb cheeseburger, mostly inspired by the Bittman article in the New York Times. This is also a variation of the burger we did on Day 8.

1/3 pounds of ground lamb
1 tsp dried mint flakes
a slice or two of smoked mozzarella

I seasoned the ground lamb with salt, pepper and mint flakes, then formed two patties. Next, I took the two patties and sandwiched the cheese between them, pressing everything together into a mega-pattie of wonder. This was then grilled to my desired doneness, which in this case, was a nice medium-- enough for the cheese to melt, while keeping the moist juiciness of the cute lamb. Baaaa. I think it took all of five minutes to prep and less than ten minutes to cook.

Good burger. Simple burger--one of my favorite burgers, and one that I turn to at least a couple of times a barbecue-season.