This burger, which we make with local grass-fed lamb, is our Greek-American diner play, because people associate lamb with Greece, where it is so popular. Lamb makes a funky alternative to a beef burger, and its richness is nicely balanced by Swiss cheese, tangy homemade pickled onions, crunchy fresh cucumber, and our Buttermilk-Dill Dressing. It’s a burger that manages to be comforting and sophisticated at the same time. It tastes best if you keep it medium-rare.
1½ pounds ground lamb
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
canola or vegetable oil for the pan
8 slices Swiss cheese
four 4-inch potato buns
2 half-sour pickles, sliced crosswise into rounds
½ cup drained pickled red onions (see below)
lettuce, tomato slices, pickle spears, for serving
1 cup buttermilk-dill dressing (see below)
1. Place the lamb in a large bowl and gently use your fingers to fluff it to loosen the meat (you don’t want to overhandle the meat). Use a 4- to 4½-inch metal ring or your hands to form four ¾-inch-thick patties. Mix the salt and pepper together in a small bowl and use half of it to generously season the tops of the burger patties.
2. Heat a cast-iron flat-top griddle or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Dip a folded paper towel in oil and use it to grease the pan. With a spatula, carefully transfer the patties to the pan, seasoned-side down. Sprinkle the patties with the remaining salt and pepper mixture. Cook, without pressing down or moving the burgers, until the bottoms are browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the burgers and cook until both sides are browned, 9 to 10 minutes for medium-rare and 12 minutes for medium. Place 2 slices of cheese on each burger, add 1 teaspoon water to the pan, and cover the pan immediately. Cook just until the cheese has melted, about 10 seconds. Transfer the burgers to a plate.
3. Pour off most of the fat from the pan and use a paper towel to wipe out the browned bits. Open the buns and place the bottom halves cut-side down in the hot pan until browned and toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the buns over to toast the other side, about 1 minute longer. Repeat with the bun tops.
4. Transfer each patty to a bottom bun half. Top with pickle slices and pickled onions and serve with lettuce, a tomato slice, and a pickle spear, with the Buttermilk-Dill Dressing on the side.
Pickled Red Onions
Makes 1½ Quarts
2½ pounds red onions (about 6 medium onions)
1 large red beet, quartered
2 cups apple cider vinegar
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup kosher salt
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1. Slice the onions very thinly crosswise into rings using a mandoline or sharp chef’s knife. Place the onions in a large bowl with the beets.
2. Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, star anise, and cinnamon stick, return the liquid to a simmer, and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Turn off the heat and pour the hot pickling liquid over the onions and beets. Stir the mixture and set aside to cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight. Use tongs to transfer the onions to airtight containers or glass pickling jars. (You can discard the beets if your onions are tinted to your liking or store them along with the onions to deepen the color; discard them once the onions are used up.) Top off the jars with some of the pickling liquid. The onions will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Makes 1½ Cups
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon finely chopped
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
Whisk the mayonnaise, buttermilk, dill, garlic powder, and onion powder together in a medium bowl. Taste and add the salt, if needed. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Reprinted by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Joe Isidori, 2016.