Lamb Burgers with Balsamic Onions, Roasted Peppers, and Aïoli

February 1, 2007

Lamb Burgers with Balsamic Onions, Roasted Peppers, and Aïoli
Varietal: Cabernet Franc

Serves 4

These lamb burgers are a signature item on the menu at Café Campagne, the popular sister restaurant to Campagne, both located steps from each other in the Pike Place Market. The Market’s own Don and Joe’s Meats custom grinds the lamb shoulder that the café uses in the burgers to produce a blend that is about 80 percent lean. If you don’t live near the Market, you can ask your favorite butcher to do the same. The burgers are served at Café Campagne along with classic frites, or thinly cut French fries sprinkled with kosher salt. You’ll want to serve the burgers with a fruity, but authoritative red wine, such as Cabernet Franc. Deep ruby to purple in color, Cab Franc displays aromas and flavors of black currant, musk, pencil shavings, and spice. Lighter bodied than Cabernet Sauvignon, it forms the perfect foil for the spicy lamb.

1 1/2 pounds lean ground lamb
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 good-quality hamburger rolls, split horizontally
Balsamic Onions (recipe follows)
1 roasted red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut into 1/8-inch slices (See Cook’s Hint, below)
Aïoli (recipe follows)

1. Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill to medium-high heat, or preheat the broiler and arrange the oven rack 3 to 4 inches from the heat source.

2. Place the lamb, garlic, rosemary, pepper flakes, and black pepper in a large stainless-steel bowl, and gently mix with your hands or a large spoon. Do not overmix or the burgers will develop a sausage-like consistency and could be tough.

3. Divide the ground meat into four equal portions and form into balls, then flatten slightly.

4. Lightly oil the grill or a broiler pan with a rack. Place the patties on the grill or arrange on the broiler pan without crowding and cook 5 to 7 minutes (for medium-rare) or to desired doneness.

5. To serve, place the burgers on the buns, layer with onions and roasted pepper slices, then drizzle with Aïoli.

Balsamic Onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into four 3/4-inch slices
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. In a medium skillet with an ovenproof handle, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions without crowding. Cook 1 minute, then turn the onions and cook 1 minute more. Season onions with salt and pepper, then add enough balsamic vinegar to just reach the tops of the onions. Remove from the heat, cover the skillet with an ovenproof lid or aluminum foil, and bake 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the onions and bake another 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Be extremely careful when moving the skillet in and out of the oven, since the balsamic vinegar is very hot, emits a very strong aroma, and splashes easily.

3. Remove the onions from the oven and cool to room temperature in the vinegar. Use immediately or transfer to a nonreactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before serving.

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil\

1. In a food processor or blender combine the garlic, egg, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and process about 2 minutes. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, adding just a few drops at a time and pulsing well after each addition, until the sauce becomes smooth and thick (emulsifies). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cook’s Hint: Roast the red pepper in one of the following four ways: (1) roast over a gas burner on high heat, turning frequently with kitchen tongs, until well charred on all sides, (2) broil under a hot broiler several inches from the heat, turning frequently, until brownish-black blisters form, (3) roast in a 400-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, turning frequently, until brownish-black blisters form (4) or char the outside of the pepper with a propane blow torch until black. Put the roasted peppers in a paper or plastic bag, close the top and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag and scrape off the skin, then cut away the seeds and ribs. Wipe away any remaining black particles with a damp cloth, then slice the peppers into 1/8-inch slices and reserve.

Recipe Courtesy of Chef Daisley Gordon of Campagne and Café Campagne as printed in the Pike Place Market Cookbook, Second Edition (Sasquatch Books, 2003)