I don't know about y'all, but that was a long damn winter. Having grown up in Florida, snow was always kinda novel. By the end of that third massive storm this season, I was over it and really over shoveling it.
So bring on spring! Let me enjoy grilling outdoors again. Let me closet the coats and break out the shorts. Let me replace my cabin fever with spring fever.
As spring is about all things new, I figured I'd do something new with the old burger recipe. I've also paired the burger with a jug of fresh beer made by D.C.'s newest brewer.
First, the burger. In the two years I've been doing this grilling column, I've never written a straight-forward burger post (my sole burger post includes seaweed salad). Why would I? Everyone does burgers. I mean everyone. At one point last year, Food & Wine, Gourmet Magazine, Food Network, the Washington Post and Chow were all running burger recipes on their Web sites. That's a lot of high-profile instruction for something so ubiquitous. I don't even think hot dogs get that kind of attention, and they've been a stable of the charcoal and Weber set for generations. The thing is, dogs and burgers are two of the easiest things to grill. But they're so near and dear to us, that writers write about them and TV people talk about them.
Including me. It's spring, so I figured area grills will be pulled out of hibernation any day. And something tells me that if you're not tossing on dogs, it's going to be burgers. Rather than heading down the same, tired burger path, though, I figured I'd once again give you the option of doing something different: goat cheese stuffed lamb burgers with avocado and mint mayo.
After all, Lamb is the meat of spring (for both tender and grizzly reasons). When paired with goat cheese and avocado, you have something special on your hands ... and dripping down you chin and arms (the sandwich gets a little messy). However, if lamb isn't your thing, substitute ground beef. Just be sure to use an 80/20 mix and skip the butter I add to the recipe. If you go with a leaner ground beef, keep the butter.
In the interest of full disclosure, I screwed up my lamb burger. I mixed shallots into the ground lamb before making the patties and stuffing the burgers. All that handling and mixing overworked the meat. I loved the flavor of the shallots in the finished burger, but the texture was too dense. It was more meatball than burger. In the future, I'll skip the shallots and work the meat as little as possible.
The trick to doing these lamb burgers is adding fat. The lamb is very lean, so you have to do something to moisten the burger and give it some flavor. I decided the best way to handle this was to stick a pat of butter in the middle with the goat cheese. That way, when you bite into the burger, the warm, liquefied goat cheese and melted butter spill out ... down your chin and arms (seriously, get a napkin).
I added the avocado for the same reason I added the butter. The avocado is a fatty fruit that does nothing but good things for burgers. And if avocado works well with beef -- it does -- it should work well for lamb -- it does. Avocados also make me think about warm weather, cold beer and boat drinks, all of which I'm jonesing for right now.
To go with the spring burger, I swung by Franklin's in Hyattsville for a growler of brewery fresh beer. There's a new brewer at Franklin's, Mike Roy, and he's cranking out some quality ales, including a Belgian-style golden ale he's named Golden Opportunity. (I'll fill you in on Mike and his plans for Franklin's later.)
The beer is hazy gold in the glass, with the traditional fruit and clove notes the style is so well known for. At 6.5 percent A.B.V., it's easy to put away a few of them.
Access to a quality brewery is a hell of a treat. There's a lot of focus in the craft beer community these days on aging beer and vertical tastings, but it's just as nice to be able to fill up a growler a few feet from the tank the beer was just brewed in. The only thing is, once you open that growler, you have to drink the beer within the next 24 hours or so to ensure it tastes its best.
That's an observation, not a complaint.
Grilled Stuffed Lamb Burgers with Avocado and Mint Mayo
(Makes four servings)
1.5 lbs. ground lamb
4 oz. goat cheese, preferably with herbs
2 tbs. salted butter
1 avocado, cubed or mashed
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
An hour before you're ready to start grilling, prepare the lamb burgers. Take enough of the ground lamb meat to form a thin patty. Season with salt and pepper. Take a bit of the goat cheese and place it in the middle of the patty. Place a tab of butter on top of it. Now, take the same amount of lamb and form it into a second patty. Place it on top of the butter, goat cheese and other patty and pinch the edges of the patties together until the sides are closed and you have a single lamb burger (this burger can get thick, so make sure each lamb patty isn't too big ... unless that's what you're going for). Repeat for the rest of the burgers. You can also do this the night before. Season both sides of all the burgers with salt and pepper to taste.
For the mayo, simply combine the mint and the mayo. You might need to add a little lemon juice, but taste as you go and do what works for you.
To grill the burgers, set up the grill for off-heat cooking. So make sure you have a hot spot and a cool spot. When the grill is ready, place the burgers on the hottest part of the grill, close the lid, and cook for eight minutes or until a crust forms (Watch out for flare ups). Flip the burgers, close the lid and cook for another five minutes. Move the burgers over to the cool spot on the grill, close the lid and cook for a final three minutes.
Remove from the grill and allow to rest. This should give you enough time to prepare the avocado. As you can see in the photo, I cubed mine. Do that or mash it up. It doesn't matter (my wife would like to point out that mashing the avocado makes the sandwich easier to eat). Just make sure to add the lemon, and salt and pepper to taste.
Now, build your burger and enjoy.