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May 17, 2016
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WINE WITH…Lamb Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Greek Salad

On its home turf the typical “Greek” salad is thought of as rustic and summery, dedicated to absolutely fresh tomatoes and cucumbers offset by the salty/briny twang of olives and feta cheese. In America, we tend to take it in another direction, adding lettuce as well as pepperoncini, anchovies, bell peppers, radishes and even beets. While these embellishments can certainly make for a tasty salad, in this recipe we stick to the original straightforward ingredients to best harmonize with the succulent lamb-burgers and their caramelized onion topping.

If you’ve caramelized onions before you already know that it is a long, slow process, requiring about 50 to 60 minutes of cooking time (the onions don’t actually need constant attention; for the most part they require only a good stirring every once in a while). If you try to speed up the action by raising the heat the result will be fried onions -- which can be tasty but will lack the velvety texture and depth of flavor of the caramelized ones.

To emulsify the salad dressing we like to use generous amount of mustard, which makes the dressing cling to the tomatoes and cucumbers more effectively.

Lamb Burgers With Caramelized Onions and Greek Salad

4 servings

The caramelized onions may be made up to a few hours in advance, but do not wash out the skillet since you’ll want the juices left in it to lend flavor to the lamb patties when you cook them in the same pan.

For the Lamb and Caramelized Onions:

3 large onions, preferably Vidalia or yellow onions
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or red wine

For the Greek Salad:

5 medium firm ripe tomatoes such as Kumato
2-3 cucumbers, preferably English, Armenian, Persian or Kirby
1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
About 1/2 cup pitted black olives, preferably kalamata
About 8 ounces feta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

For the Lamb:

2 pounds ground lamb
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon olive oil

Cut the onions in thin slices (1/8-1/4 inch thick). Place the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. When the butter melts add the onions, stirring them in to make sure they are well coated with oil. Cook the onions over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally--but not too often, allowing the different layers to sit on the bottom of the pan long enough to begin to take on some color. The onions steam as they cook, releasing their sugars to the bottom of the pan in a liquid that gradually turns to a thin, brown glaze known as a fond. When the onions begin to color, adjust the heat and continue stirring every five minutes or so, scraping them off the bottom of the pan each time. When they are golden and very soft, stir in the balsamic vinegar and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes, or until they are very brown. Season with a little salt and pepper; then transfer them to a bowl and reserve. Do not wash out the pan.

Cut the tomatoes in bite-sized pieces and place them in a large bowl. With a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, peel strips of skin off the cucumbers; then cut them into bite-size chunks. Put the cucumbers in the bowl with the tomatoes and add the chopped onions and the olives. Crumble the feta and stir it in. Mix together the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil and oregano, then whisk in the mustard. Fold this mixture into the salad.

Gently mix salt, pepper and one teaspoon of oregano into the lamb. Form the meat into 4 large patties. Add the teaspoon of oil to the onion-cooking skillet and place it over medium-heat. Add the burgers and cook them, adjusting the heat as necessary, for about 5-6 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Remove the burgers, and if you have cooked the onions in advance reheat them in the same skillet.

To serve, divide the Greek salad among four plates and lean a burger up against each serving. Top each burger with caramelized onions.

* * *

This is a versatile but somewhat paradoxical dish when it comes to choosing a wine partner. On the one hand, the lamb burgers call for a hearty, fairly full-bodied red. On the other, the salad works best with a refreshing white. Happily, we found that either color works with the whole dish. In fact, the only wines that did not work were ones with obvious residual sugar and ones that felt and tasted extremely delicate. So long as you choose a dry, forward wine, no matter its color or provenance, you won’t go wrong.

Connect  on Twitter:   @M_L_Thomas  and  @Wine_With_
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Approx. Price


Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo,

Rapel Valley (Chile) Devil’s Collection Reserva


(Imported by Excelsior Wine & Spirits)


A red Bordeaux-styled blend, full of dark fruit flavors augmented by hints of dried herbs, this wine succeeded because it not only complemented the lamb but also echoed the oregano in the salad.

DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch (South Africa) Maestro White 2014

(Imported by Cape Classics)


An unusual blend of Rousanne, Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Viognier, this is a sumptuous and sensuous wine. It tastes vaguely tropical and is extremely expressive on the palate. Full-bodied, it had enough heft to stand up to the lamb burgers.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay 2013


A prototypical Sonoma Chardonnay, full of toasty flavors atop bright citrus and apple fruit flavors. Rich and ripe, it handled both the lamb and the salad with ease.

Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands (California) Pinot Noir “Twelve Clones”



A spicy Pinot, with earthy undertones that give it more than a passing resemblance to red Burgundy, this wine’s great appeal with this particular dish comes from its velvety texture and long, ever-evolving finish.

Planeta, Vittoria Sicily (Italy) Frappato


(Imported by Palm Bay International)


Made with a red grape variety that grows only in one province of Sicily, this wine shows cherry-scented fruit and a floral hint in its bouquet, followed by a soft texture on the palate and flavors that hint at dried herbs and fruits as well as ripe cherries and red berries. Its silky character made it an especially good partner for this dish.