I often don't purchase ground lamb because it can be pretty expensive. Luckily, we found some at a local butcher shop that was very reasonably priced. If you can't find ground lamb at a good price, I think this dish would also be excellent with ground beef or turkey (or a 50-50 mixture of the two).
Once the lamb was purchased, I had to decide what to do with it! I had a bunch of ground lamb recipes saved in my bookmarks, and Tim picked out this one. I'm really glad he did, because it is fantastic! The lamb sliders are super moist and flavorful, and the whipped feta spread is seriously genius. I ended up with fat-free feta cheese by mistake, and it was still awesome, which is saying something (I normally don't trust fat-free cheese at all). The recipe makes way more whipped feta than you need, so I would recommend either making a half recipe or saving the extra for topping crackers (yum!). Finally, everything gets wrapped up in a crunchy lettuce wrap. Unwrapping Iceberg lettuce leaves was actually way tricker than I thought it would be, and I had a hard time getting the leaves off in one piece without tearing. On the plus side, it was delicious either way, and added a fresh, crisp component to the dish.
I think this dish would also be great as an hors d'oeuvres...just make the lamb mixture into little meatballs and stick them on toothpicks with a dollop of the whipped feta and maybe a cube of cucumber to add crunch. So, if you need a New Year's Eve appetizer, I've got you covered. :)
Mediterranean Lamb Sliders with Artichoke-Sundried Tomato Whipped Feta in Lettuce Cups (adapted from How Sweet It Is, original recipe here)
Serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are
For the artichoke-sundried tomato whipped feta:
6 ounces feta cheese
2 T cream cheese
6 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
5 or 6 small oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained
Pinch of white pepper
For the sliders:
1 pound ground lamb
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 head Iceberg lettuce, to serve
1. First, make the whipped feta. Combine the feta cheese and cream cheese in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is combined and starting to form large clumps. Add the artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and pepper, and pulse until the veggies are finely chopped. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
2. Make the sliders. Combine all the ingredients (except the lettuce!) in a large bowl and mix to combine with your hands. Be careful not to overmix/compress the meat. Form into 8 or 9 small sliders.
3. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add the sliders (no need to add oil unless you are not using a nonstick pan--the lamb will release plenty of fat). Cook on both sides until nicely browned and as done as you like them.
4. Meanwhile, very carefully separate the leaves of the Iceberg lettuce -- this was much trickier than I thought it would be! Rinse in cold water, and dry with paper towels.
5. To serve, spread a generous spoonful of the feta onto a piece of lettuce. I used about half a lettuce leaf for each slider, but you can vary this depending on the size of your lettuce. Then add a slider, fold over the edges of the lettuce leaf, and enjoy! Make sure to have lots of napkins handy, as this dish is a little messy to eat.