~ A Big Fat Greek Lamb 'Burger. Where's the Beef? ~
A cheeseburger, eaten anywhere in the good old USA -- each one a cheeseburger in paradise. It's become the quintessential American food. There are two claims* as to who slapped that first slice of processed American cheese on the lonely hamburger, but, we can all agree it was the best marriage of food since sliced white bread married peanut butter and jelly. And, we've come a long way baby -- nowadays the cheeseburger is eaten in fast food chains, fine-dining restaurants and all points in between. Cheeseburgers are for pick-up, delivery, drive-thru, eat-in, eat-out, eat-alone or invite-some-friends from sea to shining sea. They're kind of patriotic.
*Most historians credit the all-American cheeseburger to Lionel Sternberger, a 16-year-old fry-cook from Pasadena, CA, who, in kindness, placed a piece of American cheese on a sizzling hamburger at the request of a hungry, homeless man. This occurred in his father's sandwich shop, the Rite Spot, in 1924 or 1926. He named his new menu item the "cheese hamburger", and some claim this small technicality disqualifies Lionel from having invented the cheeseburger. (Some things never change.) The first sandwich to actually be called a "cheeseburger" was at a restaurant in Louisville, KY, called Kaelin's, in 1934. Charles Kaelin claims he wanted to add some a tang to a hamburger, so he topped it with a slice of cheese.
Nowadays hamburgers and cheeseburgers can be found in almost every corner of our planet. That said, depending on your destination, you shouldn't be surprised to find the traditional ground beef replaced with other meats, poultry, grains and/or vegetables -- to satisfy the dietary restrictions and taste preferences of that culture. For the same reasons, toppings, condiments and cheese choices will be different too.
Nowadays, here in this melting pot we call America, in home kitchens like my own, we the people are free to get really creative with the 'burger/cheeseburger concept. A quick glance at the Related Article links at the bottom of this post will show you a few of my personal favorites.
A bit about ground lamb and lamb 'burgers: Lamb meat is more flavorful and more tender than beef or pork, and by adding the right combination of herbs and spices to ground lamb, this meat will take your tastbuds places that ground beef and pork cannot. Ground lamb gives a whole new meaning to the word 'burger. Because lamb in general is at its best when served rare- to medium-rare, when it comes to forming patties don’t over-flatten them. To get an outside sear with a rare and juicy middle, they should be a good 3/4"-1"-thick. While lamb burgers are great on the grill, they're great cooked on the stovetop in a cast-iron skillet or on a flat griddle too.
Purchasing ground lamb can be tricky. If you can't find lean ground lamb (90/10) in your grocery store (which happens to me a lot), purchase a boneless lamb roast. You will need a food processor to grind it (which takes seconds), but past that, making the meat mixture is straightforward and simple. I purchase an entire 4-6-pound boneless lamb roast, cut it into 1 pound portions, untrimmed (leave the fat on), cut each portion into 3/4" cubes, place them in the food processor and grind them, 1-2 pounds at a time, using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses. That's that. I use what I need and portion and freeze the rest -- I have lean ground lamb (90/10) on hand any time I need it.
2 pounds lean ground lamb (90/10)
1 medium yellow or sweet onion, finely-diced (8 ounces)
6 large, minced garlic cloves (1 ounce)
1 tablespoon each: dried marjoram and rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons each: sea salt and coarsely-ground black pepper
Note: Whether cooking on a gas grill (over indirect heat) or on the stovetop (over medium-high) using a grill pan or cast-iron skillet:
~ Step 2. Cook 10 minutes on the first side, flip them over and cook for 8 minutes on the second side. At this point, use an instant-read meat thermometer and remove from grill when they reach an internal temperature of 130 degrees.
Remove from grill (or other ) and allow to rest about 5 minutes.
Please pass the lettuce, feta, tzatziki & tomatoes:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; kitchen scale; food processor; outdoor gas grill or indoor grill pan, griddle or cast-iron skillet; long-handled grilling spatula; instant-read meat thermometer
Cook's Note: Tzatziki (dzah-DZEE-kee) is a cool, creamy, refreshing condiment made from yogurt, cucumber, garlic, herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper. You can find ~ It's all Greek to Me: Except this Tzatziki Recipe ~, by clicking into Categoties 1, 4 or 13.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016