It is rare that Flint, Michigan—my home town until I went away to college—is mentioned in a positive light, so this recipe caught my attention. Here, Milk Street FB Community member Jennifer Wozniak of Flint, drizzles tahini onto lamb burgers that she spices up with sumac, cumin and red pepper flakes. Then the burgers are served topped with feta cheese and sandwiched in brioche buns.
Milk Street took it a step further and played up the Middle Eastern flavor profile by spiking the tahini with Greek yogurt, lemon juice and more sumac, then spreads the mixture like mayonnaise on each bun half. We like to top the burgers with lettuce, tomato and possibly thinly sliced red onion.
Words to the wise, don’t buy crumbled feta cheese. Look for it sold in a block so it can be sliced into slabs for layering onto the burgers. Also, be sure to chill the patties before cooking. This firms them up so they’re easier to handle.
4 brioche buns or hamburger buns, split and toasted
4 oz. block feta cheese, sliced into 4 even slabs
In a large bowl, combine the panko, 1 tablespoon sumac, cumin, pepper flakes, yolks, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and ¼ cup water. Using a fork, mash the mixture until evenly moistened and well combined.
Add the lamb and mix with your hands until well combined. Form into 4 evenly sized patties, each about 4 inches in diameter, then place on a large plate and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, the remaining ¼ teaspoon sumac and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; set aside.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the patties and cook until well browned on the bottoms, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip each patty, reduce to medium-low and cook until well browned on the second sides and the centers reach 160°F, another 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer to a clean plate, tent with foil and let rest for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the tahini sauce on the bun halves. Sandwich the burgers in the buns, placing a slice of feta on each patty.
Our long-time friend Merry Sue was going to be staying overnight with us so we wanted to prepare an elegant, yet simple meal. After assuring that she did indeed like lamb, we went to one of our tried and true braising wizards, Molly Stevens, and found this Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic & Vermouth (Souris aux Aulx) recipe.
Given that I was gallery-sitting all afternoon the day she arrived, and wouldn’t be home until the evening, The Hubs smartly braised the shanks the day before (see tip below). The entrée was paired with two other tried-and-true side dishes: Dorie Greenspan’s Celery Root Purée and a most recent Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots.
As there were only three of us and the recipe fed six, we halved only the number of shanks but kept all of the other ingredients at full throttle. In fact, if you are making six shanks, you may want to double everything else for the extra sauce. The recipe enhances the flavor of lamb. It is truly delicious and so simple to make; elegant enough for a dinner party or special occasion, yet it’s quick to prep, and is almost effortless as a casual supper.
TIP: The dish can be made up to three days ahead. After braising, transfer the shanks to a baking dish. Strain and season the sauce as directed in the recipe. Pour a little strained sauce over the shanks to moisten them. Refrigerate the shanks and the sauce separately, both tightly covered. Before serving, reheat the chilled sauce, pour it over the shanks in the baking dish, cover the dish with foil, and warm in a 325ºF oven for about 30 min. Finish with the herbs and black pepper, and serve.
1 cup dry white vermouth, preferably Vya or Noilly Pratt
2 bay leaves
2 heads garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice; more as needed
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, preferably a mix of mint and parsley (chervil and chives are also good)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. If necessary, trim any excess fat from the lamb shanks, but don’t trim away the thin membrane that holds the meat to the bone (we mistakenly did). Season the shanks all over with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or other heavy braising pot large enough to accommodate the lamb shanks in a snug single layer. When the oil is shimmering, add half the shanks and brown them on all sides, 12 to 15 min. total. Set the browned shanks on a platter. Repeat with the remaining shanks. When all the shanks are browned, pour off and discard the fat from the pan.
Set the pan over medium-high heat and add the vermouth. As it boils, stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve any drippings. Return the shanks to the pan, arranging them as best you can so they fit snugly. Tuck the bay leaves in between the shanks and scatter the garlic over them. Cover and braise in the oven, turning the shanks every 45 min., until fork-tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Transfer the shanks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Tilt the braising pot to pool the juices at one end and skim off and discard any surface fat. Pour what remains in the pot into a medium-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Discard the bay leaves. With a rubber spatula, scrape over and press down on the garlic cloves so the pulp goes through but not the skins; be sure to scrape the pulp clinging to the bottom of the strainer into the sauce. Whisk in the lemon juice. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if needed. To serve, pour the sauce over the shanks and shower them with the chopped herbs and a little freshly ground pepper.
Although this looks like a traditional beef stew recipe, it’s not made like one. While the beef—or lamb as in our recipe—braises in the oven, the carrots, mushrooms, and onions roast on a sheet pan alongside for a caramelized flavor. How’s that for a change?
We made this on a Sunday afternoon for a weeknight meal when we knew there wouldn’t be much time to prep dinner. But of course we had to taste-test the finished product. WOW, it was fantastic. The lamb (you could use stew beef instead) was super tender and the sauce was so silky and full of flavor.
Instead of one or the other, we used both carrots and parsnips. If you choose to include parsnips, make sure to remove the woody core before cooking them.
4 carrots or parsnips, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces, or 2 cups baby carrots
2 cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
1 cup frozen peas
2 croissants, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (optional)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Arrange oven racks, placing one rack at the lowest level. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high. Add half the beef and bacon; cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a bowl. Add an additional 1 Tbsp. olive oil, remaining beef and bacon, and the sliced garlic to Dutch oven. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return all meat to Dutch oven. Stir in tomato paste; cook and stir 2 minutes.
Carefully add wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Reserve 1/2 cup of the 50%-less-sodium beef broth. Add remaining broth to meat mixture. Stir in thyme and 1/2 tsp. each salt and ground black pepper. Bring to boiling. Cover and place pot on the lower oven rack; braise 1 hour.
In a small bowl whisk together reserved 1/2 cup broth and the flour; stir into beef mixture. Stir in barley. Bake, covered, 35 minutes more or until barley is tender and stew is thickened.
Meanwhile, in a shallow baking pan combine carrots, mushrooms, onion, remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and remaining 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper; toss to coat. Place on a separate oven rack; roast, uncovered, 45 minutes, stirring once.
Stir vegetables and peas into stew; let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
OPTIONAL: For croutons: Line a shallow baking pan with foil. In a large bowl combine croissant chunks, melted butter, minced garlic, and parsley; toss to mix. Spread croissants evenly in prepared pan. Bake 5 minutes or until toasted; let cool. Serve croutons over stew.
*If you sub in brown rice, increase baking time in Step 3 to 45 minutes.