Break the Bubble: Inspired Lamb Burgers

Locanda Verde is a restaurant I have been eyeing for a while now. In fact the website has been one of my bookmarked so it was just natural that it would be my first post. The restaurant is listed as Eater NY’s number one restaurant out of “The 38 Essential New York Restaurants”, and with the long list of owners it is clear that this establishment is more than just a local spot its name implies. Chef Andrew Carmellini does take his food seriously but the overall attitude seems relaxed with menu items like sliders and the overall tavern-cooking feel. While I live near the city I am usually not at TriBeCa often so I decided to take on their popular antipasti, the Lamb Meatball sliders with caprino and cucumber.

My take on the lamb sliders does not steer too far from the original concept but this recreation gave me a great chance to make rolls from scratch. The bun recipe was incredibly easy to follow and considering I am in no way the queen of making dough I am surprised by the outcome. While I was looking for a recipe that would produce a light and airy bun, I am pretty satisfied with this denser but buttery one instead. Considering these buns are so small the recipe works well. Some of the rolls were topped with a dried thyme, shallot, and Parmesan while others got either a dusting of Parmesan or were left alone. I think the shallot topping was my favorite making the roll an onion bun, full of flavor.

Inside the slider was even more flavor. I decided to go with a Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatball. I used a mixture of spices including ground coriander, cumin, curry powder, and oregano just to name a few. The overwhelming amount of spices in this creates a burger packed with flavor even if it is just a baby one. I am currently in love with all sorts of South Asian flavors so the curry essence in this dish is a warm welcome. The meat combined with the spice mix and some tomato ketchup is easy yet exciting for a midweek dinner.

Assembling the sliders combines the buttery bun with the spiced burger, plus a swipe of fresh goat cheese and pickled cucumbers. The cucumbers add some acidity to the dish and the goat cheese adds creaminess. I think what makes this dish a favorite at the restaurant is the luxury and balance of flavor. The slider is an excellent platform to get creative and I think this recipe screams just such. I have kept everything very close to the original but have changed up some of the method. So simple yet so rich in different components try this out and as always do not shy away from making another recreation.

For more Locanda Verde check out: http://www.locandaverdenyc.com/index.php

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatball Sliders with Goat Cheese and Pickled Cucumber

For the Buns:

[Adapted from Commee Ca restaurant in Los Angeles, via Smitten Kitchen]

  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan

For the Meatballs:

[Adapted from Quinz Restaurant via Foodnetwork.com]

  • 2 pounds ground Lamb
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander, ground cumin, curry powder, and garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder, dried oregano, dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground mustard and paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, cinnamon, and chili powder

For the Pickled Cucumber:

  • 1/2 of a cucumber of choice
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • Splashes of red wine vinegar

For Putting It All Together:

  • Goat cheese
  • Hot tomato sauce of your choice

1. In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one of the eggs.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into the flour mixture between your fingers, making crumbs. Stir in the yeast mixture and the beaten egg until a dough forms.

3. Scrape the dough onto a counter and turn it, until smooth and elastic, 8 minutes or so. Try to leave the dough more tacky than fully of flour. More flour will make the buns tougher.

4. Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, one to two hours. The dough should rise and almost double.

5. Meanwhile, work on the meatball mixture by gently combining all of the ground meat with the spices, egg and ketchup. Form into small balls.

6. Pickle the cucumbers by peeling the cucumber. Use the peeler to make the cucumber into thin strips. Mix to combine all of the ingredients. Put in the refrigerator to keep cold.

7. Once the dough is ready to be rolled into balls, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and divide the dough into tiny pieces. The buns should be slightly larger in size than the meatballs. Make sure each pice of dough is rolled out into a ball shape.

8. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat the remaining egg with one tablespoon of water and brush on top of the buns.

9. Sauté the shallot with the thyme until slightly translucent. Top each bun with this mixture and a sprinkle of parmesan.

10. Bake the buns until the tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Take out and let them cool.

11. Time to cook the meatballs. Put the meatballs in a frying pan with only a tiny drizzle of olive oil. Cook until the meatballs are crispy brown but still look moist. You may need to turn the meatballs on all of their sides to make sure they are all cooked throughout.

12. To assemble, cut each bun in half. Swipe some goat cheese on the base of the bun. Top with a lamb meatball. Put some tomato sauce on top. Take a couple ribbons of pickled cucumber to put on the meatball. Top with the shallot, parmesan and thyme bun top and enjoy.

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