I'm not exaggerating when I call these the ultimate Lamb Burgers: freshly ground lamb shaped, seasoned and cooked to perfection, creamy feta cheese, peppery arugula, sweet tomato and a feather light brioche bun slathered with harissa aioli.
It was the wonderful day I spent with my dad photographing his paintings. While we sat at a little table in his backyard, Keith was having lunch with a friend at Hole in the Wall - not 'a hole in the wall', but a lovely little restaurant in Sebastopol, California by that name. We already knew that we loved their breakfast dishes and that a Dutch Baby for the table is an absolute necessity, but this time Keith came home raving about their lamb burger.
It had some of the typical items you'd expect on a lamb burger, like feta and arugula (rocket), but also something new to me - harissa aioli. And you know what? It is magic. Magic! Combine a generous portion of harissa (a spicy Moroccan pepper sauce) with fresh garlic and mayonnaise and you have a beyond delicious condiment. (You could also stir harissa into your own homemade Garlic Aioli.)
Can you eat lamb burgers medium-rare?
Since we like our burgers still pink in the middle, I like to know that the meat is freshly ground, so we decided to grind our own. For Christmas a couple of years ago, Keith's dad bought me a meat grinding attachment for my stand mixer. Now I'm kicking myself for taking so long to try it.
We ground a 5-pound leg of lamb in 4 minutes flat. I don't know why it matters, but the flavor of the burger was notably better than any ground lamb I've had from the grocery store. If you don't have a manual grinder or mixer attachment, you can also use your food processor or ask your butcher to grind it.
How do you know when Lamb Burgers are done?
To check for doneness, check the center of each patty with an instant read thermometer. When it reads 160˚F, you know your burgers are done. No need to rest the burgers before eating.
This is one of those burger recipes that's so versatile, easy enough for a weeknight, but festive enough for a weekend get-together. During the cooler months of the year, we cook these on the stove top, but in the summer, these burgers are great for grilling.
Sometimes we mix it up by adding thin slices of red onion and fresh herbs like fresh mint leaves, fresh parsley, fresh oregano along with the arugula. We've also swapped in tzatziki sauce - a Greek yogurt sauce (made with either strained or Greek yogurt). If you have friends or family who don't care for lamb, you can make this recipe subbing in ground beef.
You can serve these burgers on a pita bread instead of a bun if you prefer. And if you're up for a fun project, I highly recommend making your own Brioche Hamburger Buns or Brioche Rolls or Brioche Slider Buns for smaller slider-style burgers. The recipes are surprisingly easy and the flavor is worth the effort.
Greek Style Lamb Burgers with Feta and Harissa Aioli
For the Harissa Aioli
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 4 teaspoons harissa
- 1 large clove garlic minced
For the Lamb Burgers
- 1 ⅓ pounds ground lamb ideally freshly ground
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 brioche buns
- 2 ounces feta crumbled (Valbreso brand is my favorite)
- 2 cups baby arugula or baby greens
- 4 slices tomato
- Make the Harissa Aioli by whisking together mayonnaise, harissa and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat a grill pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
- Meanwhile, divide ground lamb evenly and form four, 1-inch thick burgers, making a depression in the center for even cooking. Season both sides of burger with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Transfer burgers to hot grill pan and cook 5 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature reaches 160˚F on an instant read thermometer.
- Assemble burgers: slather bottoms of each brioche bun with aioli and top with burger, feta, arugula and tomato. Slather inside of top bun with aioli and place on top. Serve.