Bagna Burgers

By • February 20, 2014 4 Comments

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Author Notes: Imagine an evening just between summer and spring, the sky is changing from blue to pink to violet, you're with friends at the table. The table is set with comfortable linens, candles and bowls filled with the last of the lilacs. There are glasses of Rose and small dishes of olives, roasted red peppers, some creamy goat cheese, a loaf of bread, a platter of warm grilled asparagus ... it's been a lazy day in the garden or on the beach, naps have been had, bicycles ridden, another lazy day is to follow.

Placed before you is a fragrant grilled lamb burger, teetering on a thick slab of grilled country bread, the tart juicy roasted tomatoes squishy with olive oil are mingling with the lamb juice, there's a bright pouf of arugula, fennel, crunch of capers & thin sliced red onion bright with lemon juice balanced on top of dollops of rich aioli. With a heavy handled steak knife and a worn silver fork you cut into your burger, for there is no other way to begin.. heady garlickly butter redolent of the sea and salt oozes from the center mixing with meaty juice, olive oil, aoili, chewy bread, juice tomato, crisp fennel, bitter arugula, crunchy caper, and a chewy pickly bite of preserved lemon...a bite of olive all swaddled in buttery anchovy rich goodness. It is a perfect mouthful on a perfect day.

I write this looking out the window at slush melting, rivulets of gray mingle with clumps of trash, the sun in shining so earnestly after weeks of snow and sleet and ice and rain. I'm feeling poetic, I'm hungry for warmth and air , I'm desperate for the scent of dried ocean salt on my warm skin, for teh smell of charcoal and teh feel of sand and the hint of fishiness in dockside air. That's what anchovies remind me a of, the smell of the docks on the edge of a breeze.

You can be an ambitious or as laissez-faire about this recipe as you wish... You may roast garlic cloves till golden and soft, slowly roast tomatoes until their sugars burst and then bathe them in olive oil & garlic, you can reach for your store of homemade preserved lemons, you can whisk egg yolks and garlic and saffron and olive oil into an unctuous aioli or you can pop over to your local fancy food shoppe and pick up roasted garlic cloves, little red tomatoes, a jar of preserved lemon and a pot of aioli... you can also add a bit of extra egg yolk, garlic & saffron in to some Hellman's (Best Foods) and call it a day. If you make this in tomato season please use a ripe juicy sun warmed tomato.

Please excuse picture... don't have time to cook this week.. on our way out of town.


Serves 4

Bagna Butter-

  • 1 pound Best Sweet Cream Butter
  • 3 tablespoons Good Olive Oil
  • 2 Heads Roasted Garlic Cloves (@ 20 or so cloves)
  • 6 Anchovy Filets, salt packed, rinsed well & dried
  • 1 tablespoon Chopped fresh parsely
  • 2 teaspoons Chopped fresh Mint
  • teaspoons Juice & Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tablespoon Falky Sea Salt
  1. Place butter in large bowl and soften enough so you finger leaves a dent when gently pushed, but doesn't slip through
  2. Heat olive oil to a shimmer over medium heat
  3. Add anchovies to oil & fry till crunchy
  4. Remove from heat & let cool briefly, in oil
  5. Remove anchovies from oil & mince
  6. Add Anchovies, Oil, Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, Herbs & Garlic Cloves to butter & mix well, taste season with salt & pepper
  7. Lay a piece of plastic wrap (Around 1' square) flat on your cutting board & spoon butter neatly in the center. Roll gently using the side of the plastic to form a cylinder of butter, about the width of a Kielbasa, fold over and twist ends tightly to seal completely. ( you can also use wax paper or parchment, don't use foil though.
  8. Freeze until solid, can be kept in freezer fro at t least 2 months. This recipe creates more than you need, however it is absolutely delicious on most things that are food...especially: Roasted Radishes, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Grilled Meats & Fish, Steamed Fingerling potatoes, Spaghetti, Grilled Bread or stirred into Soft Scrambled Eggs at the very last minute.

Lamb Burgers

  • 1/4 cup Chopped Kalamata Olives
  • 1 teaspoon Chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo Pepper
  • 4 1/4" thick Disks Frozen Bagna Butter
  • 1.5 pounds Best Quality Ground Lamb
  • 1 pint or so Roasted Tomatoes - I get these at the Italian Deli when lazy, they're are no sun dried but they are a bit consdensed, use your own or buy them, or if its summer use a real ripe tomato
  • 1/2 cup Aioli (homemade is best)
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy oil or 1 mashed anchovy
  • 2 cups Washed Dried Argula
  • 1/2 cup Shaved Fennel
  • 1/2 cup Shaved Red Onion
  • 1/4 cup Fried Capers (Dry capers well, heat gently in olive oil until they open like crunchy little flowers)
  • 1/4 cup Thinly Sliced Preserved lemon rind
  • 4 Slices thick cut Country Bread, brushed with olive oil & Grilled-
  • 1/4 cup Great Olive Oil
  • Flaky Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
  1. Pre-heat Grill, Grill Pan or Cast Iron Pan until very very hot
  2. Mix together Olives, Rosemary, Lemon Zest, Aleppo Pepper with about a tsp each Salt & pepper
  3. Gently Gently mix olive mixture into lamb... taste for seasoning...raw lamb won't kill you but if you are squeamish about it heat a wee bit in a pan... keep in mind that the butter will add salt.
  4. Whisk the mashed anchovy or the anchovy oil in to the aioli, let sit.
  5. Slice a 1/4" thick disk of butter off your cylinder...don't defrost, run very hot water over a knife and use that to cut through the frozen butter, it should work like the proverbial hot knife through butter...because that's what it is.
  6. Divide the lamb into 4 equally sized balls and split each ball into equally sized halves. Tuck the butter disk into 1 ball and place other half on top and gently form into a burger shape taking care that the butter is completely surrounded by meat. Repeat until you have 4 burgers.
  7. Pat the burgers dry and season 1 side generously with pepper and sparingly with salt...
  8. Place the seasoned side down on grill or pan and then don't touch it at all for 5 minutes. Warm the grilled bread and lay a few tomatoes down on top of each slice
  9. Flip the Burger and cook for another 5 minutes
  10. Let the burgers rest on top of the bread for 10 minutes ... no really let them rest and collect themselves, don't eat them yet..
  11. Meanwhile...Toss the Arugula, Fennel, Preserved lemon, Fried Capers & Red Onion with Salt, Pepper, Lemon Juice & Olive Oil
  12. Once the burgers have rested, dollop some aioli on top and top that with a pouf of salad.
  13. Eat with Knife and fork....Recommended sides: Grilled asparagus, Tiny Steamed Potatoes with Fresh Herbs, Grilled artichokes, Grilled Carrots sprinkled with Pistachios & Feta cheese, Polenta Fries.....

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