Lamb Burger on Roasted Garlic Corn Bread with Caramelized Onion and Feta Cheese
So, the first thing I do when researching a new country is look at a map. Unfortunately for me, it’s been a long time since I studied geography and, believe it or not, some countries have changed names or disappeared entirely (not physically disappeared, that would be crazy, just been swallowed up or broken apart). So let’s start Albania with a map (courtesy of our friends at the CIA World Factbook)
In contrast to Afghanistan, I figured that Albania would be easy. It’s a Mediterranean country bordered by Montenegro, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (yes, that is its real name), Serbia and Greece and across the water from Italy. Now, I’ve been to Italy, love Greek food and my grandmother is Croatian, so I assumed I’d be able to conquer Albanian cooking with no issues, right? Wrong!
The way I start the process is by figuring out where each country is and what they grow. Albanians grow wheat, corn, figs, lemons, olives, potatoes, sugar beets and grapes among other things. Next step is to look up as many main dish recipes as I can find and get a list of common ingredients. So, for Albania, this added onions, parsley, garlic, lemon, rosemary, celery, eggplant, mint, walnuts and a few other things that were totally not helpful. Basically, from what I could determine, onion and garlic make up the main flavorings, they just don’t seem to use a lot of spices, this is basic rustic cooking. I’m a fan of rustic cooking, but it makes it hard to make a recipe which will stand out as particular to one country. At this point I had a burger with onions and garlic, not very exciting. I continued to research and read about Albania and discovered that cornbread is a staple that is eaten all the time (couldn’t find much in the way of recipes though – just blogs that indicated that it was not sweet). Then I researched cheese and found that they love feta (as do I), and finally inspiration hit…
I failed miserably on my first corn bread attempt – the bread was hard as a rock and totally without flavor. But then I rallied and added the roasted garlic and the fresh corn, and with that the whole dish came together with a unique and wonderful flavor. You’re going to need a bunch of roasted garlic, so I recommend roasting a whole head. Anything you don’t use you can store in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. You can use roasted garlic in many recipes that call for regular garlic, it gives a nice sweet and smoky flavor.
This recipe takes more time than I generally like – but the roasted garlic and the onions (both of which take about an hour), can be done hours in advance, so the recipe is not very difficult. I’ve tried this with beef and tonight I made one with a veggie burger and they worked great too – I recommend doubling the aioli recipe if you’re going the veggie burger route as the end product was a little dry, but other than that, it works as written.
I haven’t written down a real recipe for roasted garlic – just take one head of garlic, slice off the top, drizzle with olive oil and roast on a cooking sheet for about an hour at 350°F or until fragrant and soft.
One final note before the recipe, I tried this in a cast iron pan this time because I had read so much about how cast iron was the only way to cook cornbread. I found no difference in texture, taste or cooking time, so I’m not sure what the fuss is about. Use either cast iron or a regular sauté pan, they both work well.
If you like this burger, you should also check out the Cyprus Burger – another celebration of cheese!
1 pound ground lamb
Salt and pepper
4 Roasted Garlic Cornbread rounds (recipe below)
Roasted Garlic Aioli (recipe below)
Crumbled Feta Cheese
Caramelized Onions (recipe below)
Chopped parsley (optional)
Mix lamb with salt and pepper then divide into four patties. Flatten patties and cook on an indoor grill to desired temperature.
Place cornbread round on each plate, spread aioli on cornbread. Place warm patty on top of aioli, sprinkle with feta, then spoon onion mixture on top of burger. Sprinkle with parsley (optional) and serve.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions halved and sliced thin
¼ teaspoon rosemary
Zest of ½ lemon
Heat oil to shimmering, add onions and reduce to lowest temp possible on a standard burner. Cover and cook for approximately one hour until golden and sweet. Resist the urge to open the lid and check constantly, keep temp low and leave it alone. Add lemon zest and rosemary and cook for 10 more minutes.
This can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator, just make sure the onions are at room temperature or warm when you assemble your burgers
Roasted Garlic Aioli
4 large cloves of roasted garlic
½ cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Blend all ingredients in mini food processor. The aioli is best if you make it ahead and let sit covered in the refrigerator for at least ½ hour. It can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.
Roasted Garlic Cornbread
2 ears of corn (or 1 ½ cups frozen corn, thawed)
2 Tablespoons salted butter
2 cloves roasted garlic
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup fine milled corn meal
½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon double acting baking powder
1 Tablespoon salted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut kernels off of the cobs. Melt butter in an 11-12 inch oven proof sauté pan. Sauté corn over med high heat stirring regularly until lightly browned (about 5 minutes), add roasted garlic and sauté for one minute more. Transfer corn mixture to a food processor and add buttermilk and eggs. Blend together until combined (corn will still be somewhat lumpy).
In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients then stir in corn mixture.
In same pan, heat 1 Tablespoon butter over high heat until just starting to brown, add corn batter and smooth the top so that it’s relatively flat. Transfer immediately to oven and bake on middle rack for 15 minutes or until center is firm.
The cornbread should easily slide out of the pan once it has cooled a bit. Then use a small bowl or glass to cut 4 rounds.
©2011 Linda Monach, all rights reserved