For just $4.99 per person, you can make a nice summer-y 5ive $ Feast for two.
Well, it’s May, and we all know what that means…warm weather is either here or on it’s way. That means it is time to get outside and fire up that grill. Whether it’s your state of the art grill in your backyard (nice four burner grills are very affordable these days. Consumer Reports suggests a Char-Broil as the best buy. They are cheaper than many other grills that get less good reviews. I love mine. No, I don’t receive any money from Char-Broil) or a small charcoal tabletop grill, grilling is possibly the most American culinary tradition.
We Americans truly have a love affair with our grills. I know guys who do not know how to use a can opener, but can flip a burger or beer baste a brat to perfection every Sunday during football.
Mankind has been cooking meat over an open flame for hundreds of thousands of years. It is a very primordial skill that we all take pride in, even if we rarely turn on our stoves.
While, there is absolutely nothing wrong with grabbing a pack of burgers and sausages and cooking them up on a grill, I thought today I would share a slightly offbeat version of a burger, in case you wanted to stretch your horizons.
Whenever I find ground lamb in the grocery store, I must snatch it up. Normally it can be expensive, but I love the flavor and I think it is surprisingly versatile. From burgers to kebabs to meatballs or just cooked in your favorite curry sauce, there are many more uses for ground lamb than you might think.
I kept the lamb in my freezer for a couple of weeks until the weather warmed up.
Then, after a trip to my local Fresh and Easy (they don’t pay me either, I promise) I gathered up the rest of the ingredients I needed.
I wanted to give it a slightly Mediterranean feel, so I grabbed Goat Cheese and a cucumber, and a crispy beet salad mix to serve as a side. Fresh and Easy also has some very nice Mexican Bolillos that I thought would make the perfect bun. Jodie and I washed it down with their new pomegranate lime aid, although a wheat beer or glass of pinot noir may have been tasty as well. I used spices readily available in my kitchen, and would recommend that you do the same rather than trying to match exactly what I used. There is no need to run out and grab spices you are not used to. The result was a surprisingly light but flavorful burger that tasted great on a hot day.
1 pound ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp fennel (again, use whatever herbs sound best to you. I love fennel and lamb, but mint, coriander, and/or cumin are all also great choices for dried herbs as well. Use what you have and what you like)
1 tsp dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dill
2 buns or rolls (I used Mexican Bolillos)
1 small package of herbed goat cheese (if your goat cheese is not herbed, you may add the herbs yourself)
- Preheat the grill to medium heat (if using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal by your preferred method and let the coals come to a dull orange glow.)
- Combine the ground lamb, garlic, fennel, dried rosemary (or your own spice blend,) salt and pepper into a bowl and mix well. Divide the meat into two even ½ pound balls and place them on a cutting board.
- Form the patties. This is the secret of a good burger and there are a few tricks to it: First, “knead” the meat as if it were dough for three to five minutes per patty. If you skip this step, your burger will form cracks along the edge of the patty. Each crack is a place where juices can spill out during cooking. Lost juice = lost flavor. Second, and this is tricky, try to pull the meat from the center rather than apply pressure from the top of the burger. This is again to prevent cracks along the edge of the patty. Whatever technique you find to keep these cracks from appearing, use it. You want one smooth edge all the way around your patties. Third, it is important to make the center of the burger indented from the edge. The center of the burger will plump and it will leave your burger bloated and ball-like if you don’t make an indentation to give it room to plump. Your raw patties should be concave.
- Using tongs and an oiled paper towel, oil the slats of the grill. Cook the burger for 2 to 3 minutes then turn them ¼ turn, so that you get nice cross-hatching grill marks. (This is for aesthetics only.) Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes (4 to 6 minutes total,) flip the burger and repeat the process.
- While the burger is cooking, cut your buns in half if needed. Spread the herbed goat cheese on the underside of the top bun. Slice a cucumber thinly (use a mondolin if you have it, but a chef’s knife will work just fine) and place them on top of the goat cheese. Sprinkle the cucumbers and goat cheese with some dill if you have it on hand.
- Remove the finished burgers from the grill and place them on top of the bottom bun. Top with the upper bun (you know, with all the goat cheese, cucumber goodness on it.) Serve with a side salad topped with any remaining goat cheese or cucmbers.
I bought the lamb on sale, the cucumber at a local store with cheap produce, shopped for cheese and sides at Fresh and Easy, and used my own spices at home to make this meal affordable. (I accounted for ½ half the package of buns, even though I only used 2 of 6, just in case you can’t find other ways to use them.)
1 pound ground lamb $3.99 + 1 cucumber $.49 + ½ package of bollilos $1.00 + herbed goat cheese $2.99 + ½ package of crispy beet salad + ¼ of pomegranate limeaid $.75 = $9.22
Comes to $4.61 per person. You don’t have to cook for a crowd to have a 5ive $ Feast!
Kitchen Basics used:
Salt, pepper, garlic, fennel, dried rosemary, dill