Whew! That was what I said after making a marathon dinner of lamb burgers, honey-whiskey sweet potatoes, Israeli couscous salad, and coconut-chocolate cookies. :) But, sometimes it can be a lot of fun to take on an ambitious cooking project in the evening - and hey, we were still done with dinner before 10 pm! I'll share the recipes for the burgers and sweet potatoes here, and the other recipes in posts coming up soon. All of the non-dessert dishes were inspired by Salad Days by Marcel Desaulniers - indeed, all of the components were supposed to be combined into an epic salad along with some greens. However, I'm not big on burgers on salads, and I just thought everything would be better split up into different components - overall, I'd say my "deconstruction" worked really well and made for a great dinner! Thanks to Culinary Concoctions by Peabody for the cookbook recommendation -- although the cookbook is out of print, there are plenty of used copies on Amazon.
First up, the lamb burgers. These were so easy to make, and really, really delicious. The feta cheese went perfectly with the moist and flavorful lamb burgers, and my friend Andrea had some spinach on hand which added a great pop of green. Although I'm usually addicted to lots of ketchup on my burgers, it didn't seem like that would go too well with the other flavors, so we used the Dijon mustard I got in France over spring break instead - it added the perfect punch. So much more fun than regular beef burgers!
Lamb Burgers with Thyme and Feta (adapted from Salad Days)
1 pound ground lamb (adjust according to the size of burgers you prefer)
1 heaping tsp chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Whole wheat buns, toasted, to serve
Dijon mustard, to serve
Feta cheese, to serve
Spinach leaves, rinsed and dried, to serve
1. Combine the lamb, thyme, and salt and pepper in a plastic bowl. Gently mix to combine with your hands, being careful not to compact the meat. Form into 3 or 6 patties (depending on whether you want one big or two little burgers per person).
2. Heat the oil in the bottom of a skillet until shimmering but not smoking. Cook the patties until they're as cooked as you like - we made smaller burgers and cooked them two minutes per side for medium burgers. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and repeat with any uncooked burgers.
3. Build your burgers on toasted buns: spinach leaves, burger, feta cheese, and mustard. Enjoy!
On the side, I served Honey-Whiskey Sweet Potatoes, thanks to a bit of fancy whiskey from my friend Nina. Now, let me preface this recipe by saying I think this may be the most complicated way I have ever prepared potatoes! They're boiled, fried, and then baked! Crazy. Also, not worth it in my opinion. Don't get me wrong - they were super delicious and had great flavor. However, I think you could achieve very similar results by simply roasting the potatoes and brushing the glaze on in the last 5 minutes or so of baking. Although I haven't tried it and so I can't guarantee it would work, I will definitely go that direction if I make this again, since this was just way too much time and effort for a side dish! That said, they certainly were tasty potatoes - the honey and whiskey added really amazing flavor, and the potatoes turned out an excellent soft texture. The one benefit of using this method rather than roasting is that you don't use much fat at all - just a spritz in the pan before frying - which certainly wouldn't be the case if you were doing high-heat roasting.
Honey-Whiskey Sweet Potatoes (adapted from Salad Days)
1-1/4 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1/4 cup honey
1 T whiskey
Salt and pepper
1. Add the yams to a pot of boiling, salted water and cook until just tender. (If the yams are small, you can cook them whole; if you're using one large yam, you'll need to cut it into a few more manageable pieces.)
2. Drain the potatoes and run under cold water. Slip off the skins, place on a plate, and chill in the refrigerator until cold, at least 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
4. Slice the yams into 1/4-inch thick slices.
5. Whisk together the honey and whiskey in a shallow dish. (If the honey is too thick, you can warm it in the microwave for about 10 seconds.)
6. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat, and prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with foil. Spray the pan with oil.
7. Dip the potatoes into the honey-whiskey mixture and carefully transfer to the hot pan. Season with salt and pepper, and then cook about 1 minute on each side, until browned. Transfer to the foil-lined baking sheet. Work in batches, wiping out the pan and spraying with oil before starting each batch.
8. Lightly brush the tops of the yams with any remaining honey-whiskey mixture. Place in the oven and bake 30 minutes.