When we first saw this Bon Appétit recipe for a lamb burger served in a pita, we sort of shrugged. It sounded fine.
But then we went back and read the recipe more carefully, and we realized the lamb is cooked inside the pita.
That, friends, was something we had to try.
It sounded potentially amazing. But also, we were a bit dubious. Would this actually work? Would we end up with charred pita? Would the lamb cook through in time?
We were up for the challenge, so this past Sunday we treated ourselves to a lunch of Spiced Lamb Burgers.
This is a pretty simple recipe: not a ton of ingredients, not a lot of time involved. It does however require a lot of attention, so you're going to want to make these burgers when you can bring some Jedi-level focus to the task of stuffing and then grilling. It's not difficult, but the pitas need to be carefully filled and sealed. And then once they hit the grill, we found that as some fat leaves the meat, the flames would flare up. We hovered over the grill the whole time, shifting the pitas around so as to not end up with burned pita.
And it works.
This is a genius and delicious idea. The lamb is flavorful and full of wonderful spice from the coriander, cumin and cinnamon. The fat from the lamb melts into the pitas, saoking them with flavor and making them crispy and amazing. (Because the pitas absorb that fat, we'd suggest buying the thickest pitas you can find. We've got that other tips included with the recipe below.)
One quick aside about food photography: As we've made food magazine recipes for the past seven years, we've caught onto a few tricks that the magazines use. It will be nothing new to most of you, but this recipe stands as an especially good example of food that's photographed for a magazine that was cooked in way that has nothing to do with the recipe it represents. One need only look at the burger itself (photo below), with its nicely charred, deeply-browned meat, to see that the burger pictured was not cooked inside a pita.
But we forgive Bon Appétit this transgression. It is an awfully pretty photo. And a delicious burger.
Now we've found ourselves thinking about condiments. Not that these burgers need much adornment, but we do love to dip things. What would be great to serve this with. Something yogurty? Mustardy?
We'd love to hear your ideas for condiments. Leave 'em in the comments!
Notes from Zach and Clay:
- Beware fires on the grill. As the fat drips from the pitas, the fire will flare up. You can manage this by gently moving the burgers around the grill.
- We found ground lamb at our local supermarket -- but we recognize that for many readers this may be a difficult ingredient to source.
- We recommend that you buy the thickest pocket pitas that you can find. We used pocket pitas that were on the thinner side and the oil from the meat soaked through fairly quickly.
2½ pounds ground lamb, preferably shoulder
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
¾ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
8 thick medium pita breads with pockets
Using a fork, mix lamb, onion, parsley, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup oil in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
Prepare grill for medium heat and oil grate. Working one at a time, open each pita pocket by cutting along seam, halfway around perimeter. Spoon filling into pitas, spreading to edges. Close, pressing on filling to seal.
Grill pitas until filling is cooked through and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes per side.
DO AHEAD: Filling can be made 8 hours ahead; keep chilled. Pita breads can be stuffed 1 hour ahead; cover and chill.