Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lamb Sliders with Beer Battered Onion Rings

Salivating can begin... now! Not to toot my own horn, but-- amazing dinner alert!!!!!! Besides for the onion rings being SO addicting (it's a good thing I didn't double the recipe- thank you for only having 2 onions at home), the lamb sliders sound like they are all fancy & complicated but were SO surprisingly not.. like 5 ingredients, and they cook up SO quickly. I never bought lamb before, but was at Aron's in Queens & saw lamb stew- and it made me think up great recipes until I saw the price, so I put it down and right next to it saw ground lamb, greatly priced. I totally should have gotten more than 1 package (did I think I wasn't going to like it on the first try? I like practically everything!)- oh well. Next time I go there I'll stock up. Anyways, the slider idea came together when I saw a package of slider buns sitting right next to the meat counter calling my name. My go-to burger uses ground turkey, & they are so delicious you don't miss the red meat. My only reservation is the amount of time it takes to cook big burgers on my grill pan, & making sure that they are fully cooked (there is no scale when it comes to poultry)! So sliders are really the PERFECT solution!! They cook up so quickly, & there's no poking and prodding them to see if they are done. If you don't like mint, you can add whatever herbs you want. It's that easy.

When I think of lamb, I think Greek, or Mediterranean. What goes with Greek? Feta, yogurt, MINT...- mint! The only one of those ingredients I can  actually utilize with this. So I decided to take the yogurt concept and make a faux-yogurt sauce using light mayo- a mint, garlic aioli if you will (aioli is just a fancy way of saying garlic mayo. The real chefs make aioli/mayonnaise from scratch: eggs, olive oil, garlic- I wasn't exactly going there for a simple weeknight dinner).

As far as the onion rings go, it was totally a whim, aka attempt at using up a lone bottle of beer that was in my fridge for a few months taking up space! Obviously this recipe didn't just come out of my cooking brain, trusty Google lead me to a Cooking Light recipe that I put my own spin on (of course). I HATE beer, but it just gives the batter, and the onions a light texture- I imagine you can substitute the beer for seltzer/sparkling water, it will probably give it the same effect, minus the dark color. A recipe for beer battered onion rings in Cooking Light??? Yes- I was drawn to this recipe because it didn't call for 2 quarts of cooking oil with which to deep fry these bad boys. No, they are par-fried in a tsp. or 2 of oil, then finished in the oven- genius! Ok, I won't exactly hail this recipe to Weight Watchers or anything, but it definitely helps. Of course I was inclined to serve this whole meal with sauteed garlic kale- it goes with everything & immediately boosts the meal up to another level in terms of adding nutrients. Here are the recipes. Make the onion rings first, and while they're baking, tackle the sliders.

Beer Battered Onion Rings
-2 medium sized onions, sliced
-2/3 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/4 tsp. paprika
-1/4 tsp. onion powder
-1/4 tsp. black pepper
-1 tsp. garlic powder
-1/3 cup beer (measure out 1/2 cup and then stir until it becomes flat- it will go down to 1/3 cup)
-1 egg white, lightly beaten (SAVE THE YOLK for the slider buns)
-1 tbsp. canola oil

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set a baking rack sprayed with nonstick cooking spray on a baking sheet & set aside.
-Cut the onions into semi-thick slices (not too thick, not too thin), choose 16 of the "best" rounds, and set aside the rest to use a different time.
-Combine the flour and spices in a large bowl. Stir in the beer and the lightly beaten egg white (just whisk it for a minute with the fork). The batter is meant to be thick, but I added a little more beer (water would do) because I felt it was too thick to work with.
-Heat half the oil in a pan (save the rest for the whole process, if you need to add more for next batch). Working with 5 or so onion rings at a time, add them to the batter, using a fork, shake off the excess (catch the ring with the fork and tap it against the bowl to get rid of the excess). Fry 2 minutes max on each side, then transfer directly to the rack.
-When all of the onions are done, spray each one and put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until they're crispy. Using a baking rack definitely ensures crispiness! Transfer to a bowl, yes they will stay crispy! Indulge! Use the extra mint aioli (see below) for dipping. Double dipping is encouraged!

Lamb Sliders with Mint Aioli
-1 lb. ground lamb
-1 tbsp. light mayonnaise (my moist factor for burgers)
-1 large scallion (2 if they are very thin), finely chopped
-A handful of chopped mint
-1 tbsp. chopped parsley (I'd say a 3 or 4:1 ratio mint:parsley)
-1 minced garlic clove
-salt & pepper
-Shredded romaine
-8 slider buns
-egg yolk & sesame seeds
-Mint aioli (see below)

-Season the meat with salt & pepper, and add all the ingredients. Lightly mix with your hand until everything is incorporated- do not over mix it. It will get tough.
-The pound of lamb can make 8-10 sliders, depending on how small you make them. I made 8. The easiest way to portion out the meat so that all of the sliders are of equal size, is to score the meat in the bowl with your hand into 4 equal portions. Then score each one of those into 2- now you've got 8. Roll each into a ball and flatten slightly. Set aside for a few minutes.
-Heat a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil or a coating of spray. When the pan is hot, add the sliders. They only need 4-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. When they have a nice golden brown color, flip. (Obviously if you have an outdoor grill- do it there).

-Toast the slider buns in the oven until warmed through (I added sesame seeds by brushing yolk on each top bun- the yolk from the egg white that you used for the onion rings, and then sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds). I did this on the rack that I used to bake the onion rings on.

Mint Aioli
-1/4 cup mayonnaise
-Juice of half a lemon
-1 small garlic clove, grated (on a Microplane)- [first grate half the clove, mix, and taste test. If the aioli takes on too strong of a garlic flavor, add a little more mayo.]
-Pinch of salt
-Chopped mint

Combine all the ingredients. Assemble burger- spread a dollop of the aioli on the bottom bun, then shredded romaine, burger, more aioli, and then the top bun. Push down slightly on the burger so that it stays together. We each had 3 & then I froze 2 for another time.

The finished plate:

This is a real steakhouse meal- minus the cost! Obviously it could be done with any kind of ground meat (turkey, chicken, beef) but the lamb was juicy & couldn't be simpler. They came together so fast. I can't promise I'll be making the onion rings a staple, because it did take some time (first times a charm!), but they were a treat nonetheless.


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