Grilled Saganaki Lamb Burgers - The inspiration for this burger started with a thought to create a burger with all of the flavors and components of a gyro, hence the tzaziki sauce, onion, tomato and lamb patty. We were all set to add some traditional feta and call it a day, but then we thought "what if we grill some saganaki and have that be the cheese that tops the burger?" We've been waiting patiently until Sunday to finally jump in and make this thing. We start with the all important meat. We are using a boneless leg of lamb that we slice into strips. You want to make sure that you keep the fat intact and not trim it off. The lean lamb meat and fat will create a beautifully tender, juicy and delicious burger. We'll also need a few cloves of garlic to add to the meat grinder. For the seasoning, we'll need the zest of a lemon, oregano, salt and pepper.
Feed the strips of lamb through the grinder adding a clove of garlic every 3-4 strips so that the garlic is interspersed into the lamb evenly. We are using a coarse grind on these which will result in ground lamb that looks like this.
We're looking for a patty size of about 1/3 lb on these. Form into a circular shape. For the seasoning combine the finely diced zest of a lemon with a tablespoon of oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste and combine. Season the patties with the mixture then refrigerate.
Before we get to the grill, let's knock out the tzaziki. In a large bowl add one 6 oz. container of plain Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons of the liquid from jarred hot pepper rings, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/4 finely diced cucumber, 3-4 chopped banana pepper rings and 2 tablespoons of chopped dill. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready for use.
We can head out to the grill, but before we can work on the burgers we have to tackle the saganaki. Our goal here is not so much to make restaurant quality saganki (which we did) but to come away with eyebrows still intact (which we also did). Get a grill going to hot and place a cast iron pan over the hottest part of the flame. Add a couple of tablespoons of grape seed oil and wait a couple of minutes until the oil is hot and shimmering.
Next up is the cheese. You have several options here, our choice was dictated by availability. We went with Halloumi which is a semi-hard sheep's and goat's milk cheese that stands up great to grilling/pan frying. Slice the Halloumi into slices that are just a little smaller than the size of the patties and place in the hot oil.
After a couple of minutes, flip the cheese over and let cook for another minute. Now the fun part. Traditionally Ouzo is used to ignite the flame, but any higher proof alcohol will do. We used a few shots of Sherry to ignite the cheese. Have a couple of slices of lemon nearby to squeeze onto the cheese and extinguish the flame. What you wind up with is this melted cheese that has a beautiful browned crust on all sides of it.
NOW we can get to the burgers. The fire should still be very hot so oil the grates and add the lamb burgers to the hottest part of the grill.
Since these are thinner than the normal 1/2 pounders we normally do around here, 3-4 minutes is all they will need before needing to be flipped.
We cook these for another minute or two, top them with the saganaki then move to the cool side just to let the cheese warm up again for a minute under a covered grill. Remove the burger from the grill and lightly toast the hamburger buns. We are using soft wheat buns today which are innocuous enough in both flavor and texture to not compete with or detract from all of the tasty Grecian ingredients.
Let's build this thing. Two slices of red tomato goes on the bottom bun which is then topped with the lamb patty.
Top with finely sliced red onion and some of the banana pepper tzaziki and there you have it.
Other than this being one of the tastiest burgers we've had, a couple of additional observations.
1.) These tasted exactly like a gyro, garlicky and highly seasoned with no need for a spit and 2.) There is no substitute for freshly ground lamb, the texture was almost buttery. The lamb was melt in your mouth tender. These were such a big hit, the request has been made to make them again this week. Fine by us!
Three Floyd's Rabbid Rabbit Saison - This may have marked our longest drought between trying new Three Floyd's offerings. You can imagine our excitement when we saw a new 22 oz. bomber of a new Three Floyd's creation in the cooler. Their Rabbid Rabbit Saison is their take on the classic Beligum Farmhouse Ale. Not traditionally one of our favorites, but Three Floyd's has a way with making each style their own and usually for the better, so with no hesitation we packed the cart with a few bottles of these. The Saison poured a very cloudy yellow with a foamy white head. Bubbles cascaded upwards in the glass reminiscent of champagne. The aroma is earthy, grassy and spicy with just a little sweetness on the nose. The flavor profile is full of spices with coriander and spicy black pepper being the dominant tastes. The beer also has a pleasant sweetness from the rock candy used during the brewing process. That sweetness is complimented nicely by a good amount of booziness. Rabbid Rabbit is not a beer that we could drink a ton of, but it's a really interesting one that we enjoyed. It was a good call with the burgers, the sweetness in the Saison bringing out the natural sweetness in the lamb.
The Heavy Company "Midwest Electric" - We came across these guys during the NFL season when we were doing our Sunday BBQs based on who the Bears were playing. When the Indianapolis Colts popped up on the schedule we found The Heavy Company from nearby Lafayette, Indiana to provide the soundtrack with "The Heavy (Please Tune In...)". We have been eagerly awaiting the release of their follow up album "Midwest Electric". This latest release is heavy on the soulful southern rock leaning more towards Drive-By Truckers than the Truckfighters. The album kicks off with its heaviest hitting and best track in "The Humboldt County Waltz". The opening riff is awesome and recalls Humble Pie's "I Don't Need No Doctor" before the song settles into a little more southern-fried rock territory along the lines of Georgia Satellites or The Bottle Rockets. "A Groove a Mile Wide" is a chill slice of psychedelia that picks up steam about halfway through and morphs into a rollicking slice of psychedelia before returning back to end the song. On "Neil Young" the organ makes its first well-timed appearance providing a winding backbone behind the whispering drawl of the vocals which have a certain Jakob Dylan-esque quality to them. The excellent instrumental "Greasy Mush" gets served up with some downright funky bass sounding like something you'd hear on a theme song to a 70's t.v. sitcom. Throw in some electrifying guitar work and some really loose drumming and you have the makings of one pretty sweet jam. Things get turned up and fuzzed out on "One Big Drag", a great heavy outlaw rock track that ends with a two minute psychedelic jam. "Sailing Toward the Setting Sun" is an instrumental of sorts. Atmospheric with only a couple eerie vocal chants peppered here and there. The album ends with "El Bango Grande", a boot-stomping lighting fast number that slows way down courtesy of a Pink Floydian outro. The track is another one of the album's highlights. The album sounds great start to finish, perfect to put on and let play when outside barbecuing on a warm May day.