During this time of year, grilling is the name of the game. Who doesn’t love an outdoor cookout, surrounded by friends, drink in hand, soaking up the last bit of sunshine on a beautiful Saturday evening? No one.
So I always feel a little left out this time of year, living in a studio apartment in the middle of a city. Outdoor space is hard to come by, and in my case is limited to my stoop and sidewalk, neither of which are really conducive to a grill and party.
This is why, when I was contacted by the American Lamb Board to participate in yet another lamb recipe contest, this time focusing on grilling, I enthusiastically accepted. I took matters into my own hands and promptly purchased a two-burner grill pan, perfect for indoor grilling. I would not be left out any longer. This Summer, we grill!
I set to develop a recipe, and considering the contest would coincide perfectly with July 4th, thought I’d celebrate America with burgers, homemade Orange-Bourbon Barbecue sauce, and American Lamb. They’re mini because small food makes you look good. Trust me.
First, let’s make Barbecue Sauce.
Onion is diced and garlic is minced, then added to a sauce pan with olive oil over medium heat.
Next, it’s just measure and pour.
We’ve got (from left) oranges and orange zest, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, bourbon, cumin, ketchup, and not pictured, brown sugar, honey, and cayenne pepper. It’s a flavor party! They all get added to the pot and brought to a boil, then the heat is lowered and the sauce simmers for about an hour.
I wanted the sauce for the sliders to be smooth so I got out my trusty immersion blender and pureed it until I got the desired consistency.
Next, The Sliders.
I was given a boneless leg of lamb and used my stand mixer’s meat grinding attachment to grind it. If you would like to do the same, follow the instructions below. If not, you can buy ground lamb at your grocery store. You may have to ask the butcher to grind some for you, but that’s no biggie. I actually think it’s fun to talk to the butcher; I always learn something. Anyway!
To grind the meat, first, cut the leg of lamb into about 1-inch pieces, trimming some of the fat as you go.
Once the lamb is cut and trimmed, place the grinder attachments and the lamb in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. You’ll get a much cleaner grind if you do this and it will make your life easier, I promise.
Once the lamb has been chilled, follow the directions for your meat grinder and grind it up!
That’s a lot of ground lamb. I only used about half of that to make 8 sliders, and will use the rest for a lamb ragu or a lamb kebab situation. I’ll let you know!
Now that the lamb is ground, we can season and form our sliders. Separate enough meat to make about 8 sliders, or however much you might need, accounting for 2-3 sliders per person.
Since these are barbecue lamb sliders, we want a slightly smoky flavor, so I add ground cumin, ground chili powder, salt, pepper, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.
Mix that gently and form the sliders. I used about 1/4 cup of meat to form 8 small patties.
Next, I heat your grill pan or outdoor grill and grease it with some vegetable oil.
Once it is sizzling-hot, add the patties and let them cook for about 4 minutes, long enough to get a nice sear and beautiful grill marks.
Then flip them over and cook them for about 4 minutes on the other side.
At this point, if I were grilling outdoors, I would baste them with the Bourbon-Orange barbecue sauce, top them with cheese, then close the lid of the grill, and let them cook through. However, I obviously don’t have a cover for this grill, so I finished my burgers in the oven, which was set to 400 degrees for the oven fries.
I put the patties on a foil-lined baking sheet, basted them with barbecue sauce, then put them in the oven for about 10 minutes, just to cook through. This is where the cheese would go, too, but I forgot and added it later. You wouldn’t forget though. I know you.
While those are in the oven, you can fix your sides. Mine included oven baked french fries and grilled corn with a lime-cilantro compound butter.
Now it’s time for assembly! Split the slider rolls, which I made using the dough from this cinnamon roll recipe, and top with a lamb slider, cheddar cheese, greens, and crispy fried onions. An extra drizzle of barbecue sauce doesn’t hurt, either.
The final product is a smoky, tangy, crunchy medley of flavors and textures. The lamb sliders are juicy and flavorful, and the toppings serve as perfect compliments to the lamb.
The barbecue sauce has such a deep and nuanced flavor, too. The zing from the citrus and vinegar pairs perfectly with the deep, intense flavors of the molasses and honey, but the whole thing is set off by the floral notes of the bourbon, which is subtle but definitely present. It would be delicious on chicken or ribs in addition to these lamb sliders.
Your Fourth of July cookout, or any Summer barbecue for that matter, needs these lamb sliders. They’re the perfect combination of flavors and textures, and I promise you that your guests will agree.
Finally, remember back in November when you guys all rocked at voting for me in the American Lamb Pro-Am? It’s time to do that again!
Here are the recipes!
Grilled Barbecue Lamb Sliders
- 1 boneless leg of lamb, coarsely ground*
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Slider rolls
- Bourbon-Orange Barbecue sauce (see recipe below)
- Fried onion strings, like French’s
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Bourbon-Orange Barbecue Sauce
- Greens (I used arugula, which I really liked, but you could use whatever greens you like)
*You can buy ground lamb at your super market. You will need about 1 pound for 8 sliders.
- If grinding lamb yourself: Cut lamb into 1-inch pieces, trimming some of the fat as you go. Chill lamb and grinding attachments in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. When lamb is chilled, follow the instructions that came with your grinder and grind lamb.
- Separate enough lamb for the desired about of sliders. Add seasonings and Worcestershire sauce and mix gently with hands. Gently form meat into small patties, about 2 inches in diameter. If you are grilling indoors, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Heat and oil a grill pan or an outdoor grill over medium-high heat. When the grill is sizzling-hot, add the sliders and let cook for about 4 minutes, or until seared and nicely marked with the grill. Flip and grill for another 4 minutes. If working indoors, move sliders to a foil-lined baking sheet and baste with sauce and place cheese on top. Place in oven for about 10 minutes, until lamb is cooked through and cheese is melted.
- Assemble sliders: place slider pattie on split slider roll and top with additional barbecue sauce, greens, and crispy onions.
Bourbon-Orange Barbecue Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup Bourbon
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 2 oranges)
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons Honey
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (less if desired)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Lower heat and add the bourbon. Let the bourbon reduce for about 4 more minutes. Increase heat to medium again and add the rest of the ingredients, stirring to combine. Let mixture come to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for at least an hour, until thickened.
- Once sauce has reduced and thickened, puree with an immersion blender or regular blender until smooth. Serve on Grilled Barbecue Lamb Sliders.