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Tuesday Taste Test: When God Gives You Lamb, Make Lamb Burgers


I was persuing New York magazine's "best new burgers" list the other day and paused at what was described as a "drippy lamb-and-beef burger" on Prune's lunch menu. Mmmm…drippy sounds delicious, I thought.

Then, a couple days later, I was flipping through my Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals cookbook (i know, i know, but I secretly love her), and I came across a recipe for lamb-and-beef burgers called (what else?) "Shish-Ka-Burgers."

God is trying to tell me something, I thought.

This got me wondering about lamb. Specifically, why I'd never even considered cooking it before now, why I couldn't recall ever having eaten it at anyone's house, and why I'd probably only tasted it once or twice off someone else's plate.

Furthermore, I thought, why don't American Jews eat more lamb? What about that passage in the Bible, the one about the paschal lamb, Exodus 12, to be exact:

 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house:

 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

(And on and on) Lamb being such a symbolic food for Jews, you'd think that it would be a traditional Jewish dish all around, right up there with brisket and tzimmes and matzoh ball soup. But, while Sephardic Jews tend to eat a lot of lamb, Ashkenazic Jews don't.

I turned to the lamb section of How to Cook Everything to see what Mark Bittman had to say about it:

…demand for lamb has never been high, nor have prices, so producers have had little incentive to "rationalize" production–that is, to make it factory-like, as they have with beef and pork. 

He goes on to say:

…because lamb is so small…many cuts contain several muscles, meaning you get a variety of tastes and textures, an unusual pleasure.

Well, this is all sounded good to me. I felt that I may have just stumbled upon a well-kept secret and was about to discover a new meat that would transform my life. But there had to be a catch. There had to be a reason why more Americans don't eat lamb, why they don't sell lamb at my local grocery store.

I decided to start with the Rachael Ray recipe. Not only did it mirror the burger I came across on the "best new burgers" list by being both lamb and beef, it seemed a pretty tame way to introduce myself to lamb.

Rachael's recipe is simple:  

Combine ½ lb lamb, ½ lb beef, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 4 shakes of Worcestershire sauce. Form into four patties. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Top with sliced, grilled green pepper, onion, and portobello mushroom (that's the shish-ka-bob part). You could also make these in a skillet and cook them for less time on each side, and I think topping them with a dollop of Greek-style yogurt would be nice, maybe mix some fresh chopped mint in there.

The verdict? The burgers were definitely "drippy." They were incredibly juicy and I really did enjoy the lamb flavor in there with the beef. Would I make them again? I'm not sure. There's still something about lamb that I just don't love. It could be that it's a little bit gamey, could be that I just didn't grow up eating it, or maybe I just can't get the image of cute lil' Lambchop out of my head.

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