All credit for this recipe goes to Chef Hubert Keller.
A number of years ago, I went to Las Vegas with my daughters to celebrate Abby’s 21st birthday. Full disclaimer, this was her choice: like many others I know, I was skeptical that Las Vegas could be any fun. I was so wrong!
One of the first things we found out when we got there was that it is kind of foodie paradise. In walking around through the malls and hotels we kept tripping over the restaurants of some of our favorite chefs. We had made reservations, of course, for our dinners but it was lunch that was the big surprise.
The girls and I have been following the Bravo TV series Top Chef almost since it’s inception. And one of our favorite seasons was Top Chef Masters in which some of the best and most renown chefs competed for the title. Hubert Keller was one of these. His gentle manner, along with his innovative and approachable cooking style won us over. So, we were delighted when we happened upon his restaurant, Burger Bar just at lunch time. We were even more thrilled when we saw that he was upstairs filming. So of course I had to buy his eponymous cookbook, Burger Bar. This small autographed cookbook is one of the treasures of my collection.
Top Chef is on Season 16 and Sarah, our friend Emilie and I come together to watch it over dinner once a week. This week I chose to honor Top Chef and Hubert Keller with his recipe for Lamb Burger Provencal.
When I think of a Lamb Burger I usually think of a Greek version with feta, spinach and onions to help provide moisture and fat to the mixture. In this version, Chef Keller starts with a spice and wine reduction which is added to the ground meat.
He calls for both coriander and cumin seeds which are lightly crushed and toasted before wine and honey is added. If you can’t find the seeds at your store you should be able to find ground roasted versions on the spice shelf. Substitute ¼ teaspoon of each and proceed with the recipe from the addition of the liquids. I also do not have a mortar and pestle (casualty of my life change) so I used my rolling pin to crush the seeds.
Listen to the mixture as it boils, you will hear a change in the quality of the sound as it gets to the correct reduction. The mixture will be a little syrupy and thicken.
Put everything in a large bowl and mix it together lightly. Ground lamb does not take well to overmixing. Keller suggests making four ½ pound burgers from this recipe. I found this to be a little large for my taste so I made them slightly smaller. It’s up to you and your audience. Using a ring or cup measure to form the patties helps get a consist size and width on them.
The patties should be made and refrigerated at least 30 minutes in advance or as much as 24 hours.
Meanwhile make the red pepper relish.
Place a red pepper under the broiler on a foil lined baking sheet and broil, turning as needed, until it is charred all over.
Let it cool then peel it, seed it and chop into small dice.
Arrange the basil leaves on top of each other in a pile, fold them over on themselves and slice thinly. This is called a “chiffonade”, which is French for “in rags”.
Prep the other ingredients in a similar manner. How spicy you want to make this is up to you. Removing the seeds from the jalapeno will decrease the heat level.
Finely chop the onion and sauté in a little olive oil over medium low heat until it is soft and cooked.
The original recipe calls for 5-6 plum tomatoes which have been peeled, seeded and chopped. This is great if it is summer and you can get decent tomatoes. It’s winter here so I opted for a 14.5 ounce can of fire-roasted diced plum tomatoes. Drain the canned tomatoes well to get rid of the extra liquid.
Once the onions are cooked add all of the other ingredients, except the basil, and cook until the tomatoes are warmed through. (If you are using fresh tomatoes you will want to cook it a little longer, about five minutes). Add the basil and salt and pepper as needed.
Set this aside at room temperature if you are cooking the burgers that day or refrigerate and bring back to room temperature before using.
To cook the burgers, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a little oil in a oven-proof skillet and brown the burgers for 2-3 minutes on a side over medium heat. Place the skillet and the burgers in the oven and continue cooking until they have reached the desired doneness. (5-7 minutes for rare to medium rare)
Serve on a ciabatta bun or toasted English muffin with some lettuce and relish. And extra relish on the side. (Because it’s sooooo good!)
LAMB BURGER PROVENCAL
For the burger:
- 1 tsp whole coriander seed lightly crushed
- 1 tsp whole cumin seed lightly crushed
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 lbs ground lamb
- 2 tsp garlic minced
- ¼ cup red onion finely chopped
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
For the Red Pepper Relish
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 fresh basil leaves
- 1 large yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 14.5 oz can fire-roasted diced plum tomatoes, or 6 plum tomatoes
- 1-2 Jalapeno peppers seeded and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp honey
- Salt and pepper
Make the burgers
- Toast the spice seeds, if using, in a small pan over medium-low heat until they are fragrant and a little browned. (See note). Add the wine and honey and increase the heat. Boil until reduced by about half. Mixture will thicken and be slightly syrupy.
- Put the lamb in a large bowl. Add the spice-reduction mixture, garlic and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently mix together. Shape into patties of equal size and shape. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or as much as 24 hours.
Make the relish
- Place the bell pepper on a foil lined baking sheet and place about 5 inches under the broiler. Broil, turning as needed, until the pepper is charred on all sides. Let the pepper cool then peel it, seed it, and chop into small dice.
- Stack the six basil leaves on top of each other and fold over twice. Using a sharp knife, cut the basil into fine strips (chiffonade).
- If you are using fresh tomatoes, peel, seed and chop them coarsely.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are soft and translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the basil, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and the flavors come together. This will take about 5 minutes if using fresh tomatoes, and 3 minutes or so for canned tomatoes.
- Add the basil, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Put the relish into a container. Stir in 1 tablespoon of good quality olive oil. Cover and set aside until needed. If you are not making the burgers that day refrigerate the relish and bring back to room temperature before serving.
Cook the burgers.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Sauté the burgers in a little oil 2-3 minutes on a side until brown.
- Place the pan in the oven to finish cooking the burgers, 5-7 minutes for rare to medium-rare (125-135 degrees).
Serve the burgers on a bun with lettuce and some of the relish. Extra relish on the side.
Note: if you are unable to find whole coriander and cumin seeds, substitute ¼ tsp each of roasted and ground coriander and cumin. Proceed with the recipe from the addition of the liquids.