A juicy burger from Sur la Table's Everyday Grilling. Lamb shoulder has sufficient internal marbling to make a juicy burger. When ground, it is the lamb equivalent of ground chuck. Grill the patties, then layer them on a soft bun with tomato, smoky onions, and crumbled feta to make a burger with a Middle Eastern accent. Sumac, a brick red spice sold at Middle Eastern markets, has an invigorating lemony tang that complements grilled meat.
2 lb. freshly ground lamb shoulder
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
6 red onion slices, 1/2" thick
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 lb. Greek, French, Bulgarian, or Israeli feta cheese, at room temperature, crumbled
6 hamburger buns, split
Ground sumac (optional)
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
Feta cheese (optional)
Step 1: Prepare a moderate charcoal fire for indirect grilling or preheat a gas grill to medium (375° to 400°F), leaving one burner unlit.
Step 2: Put the lamb in a large bowl. Add the oregano (crumbling it between your fingers as you add it), 2 tsp of salt, and hot pepper flakes, and season with black pepper. Work the seasonings in gently, then, with moistened hands, shape the meat into six patties each about 3/8" thick. They should be a little wider than your hamburger buns, as they will shrink in diameter when cooked.
Step 3: From opposing directions, insert two toothpicks horizontally into each red onion slice; the toothpicks will hold the onion layers together on the grill. Brush the onion slices on both sides with some of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Step 4: Grill the onion slices first: Place them directly over the coals or gas flame and cover the grill. Cook, turning once, until nicely coloured on both sides, about 5 minutes, then move to indirect heat until they are softened but not limp, about 5 minutes longer. Keep warm while you grill the burgers.
Step 5: Grill the burgers directly over the coals or gas flame — lid off on a charcoal grill, lid on for a gas grill. Cook until they are done to your taste, which you can best determine by touch. A rare burger feels soft, with no spring back. A medium burger will offer some resistance to the touch, but will not feel firm. A well-done burger will be firm to the touch. Cooking time depends on the heat of your fire, but a medium burger will take about 10 minutes. A couple of minutes before the burgers are done, top with the feta, dividing it evenly, and toast the bun halves on the grill, cut side down.
Step 6: To assemble the burgers, place the bottom halves of the buns, cut side up, on individual plates. Sprinkle generously with sumac. Top with tomato slices and sprinkle with salt. Remove the toothpicks from the onion slices and place on top of the tomato. Top the onion with a burger, sprinkle with feta cheese and sumac, then cover with the top half of the bun. Serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Sur la Table's Everyday Grilling (2011 Andrews McMeel).