Mary's Little Lamburgers

OK, my bias must come out: If cooked properly I like lamb better than beef. Now I know a lot of you are questioning my sanity, but that's probably because you've never had good lamb cooked properly. It seems lamb is like liver or anchovies. Some people just hate them and it's usually because of a traumatic childhood experience.

If you're willing to take a chance, please please try my Lamb Loin Chops in Sheep Dip. That will show you the heights to which it can rise. But if you don't want to spend that kind of money on an experiment (loin chops are expensive), here's a quick and dirty way to see how good lamb can be. Next time you have a jones for a burger, make it a lamburger. Most groceries carry ground lamb. Often in preformed patties. Preparing these burgers is a snap and you might not go back to beef burgers.

A key is the sauce. I know you want to put ketchup on your burgers, but lamb has been a staple of the Greek diet for centuries, and they love it with a white sauce from yogurt called tzatsiki sauce. Tzatsiki is also served on gyros, which is made from ground lamb and other meats. The sauce below, developed by my wife, is not a classic tzatsiki, but it's close. You'll be surprised at how well it works on lamburgers. We serve them with a big green salad and use the sauce as a salad dressing too. I've even been known to pack the salad into a pita and eat it that way.


Yield. 4 burgers

Preparation time. Making the sauce takes 15 minutes, grilling the burgers takes 10 minutes.


1.5 pounds of ground lamb

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

4 pita pockets

Yogurt sauce

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

Optional. Chopped cucumbers are nice on this.


1) Prepare the sauce. You can do this the night before and that will help pull flavor out of the herbs.

2) Prepare your grill for hot direct heat. If your gas grill has a sear burner or infrared burner, this is what it is for. They can be cooked easily on a hibachi.

3) For the meat into patties about 6 ounces each about 1/2" thick and shaped like a football so they will fit neatly into pita halves. Coat them with the oil, and then with the spices. That may seem like a lot of spices, but we want to form a nice crust.

4) Put the burgers on the grill, close the lid, and stand there. Sing Mary Had a Little Lamb four times or about four minutes, check the underside. You want it dark, but not black. Cook the burger until it hits 160°F, safe temp. Toss the pitas on the grill for 30 to 60 seconds on each side, enough to warm them.

5) Serve the burgers by cutting the pitas in half. Press the sides gently to pop open the posket. Spoon about a tablespoon of sauce in, put some chopped tomato in, squeeze the burger in on top, and slater more sauce on the burger. Make sure everyone has plenty of napkins.


The story behind the nursery rhyme

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788-1879) was a poet, novelist, and magazine editor who published more than 40 books in her lifetime. The portrait of her above was painted by by James Reid Lambdin around 1831.

She, more than anyone, was responsible for making the New England celebration of Thanksgiving a national holiday by campaigning for it for almost two decades and by writing letters to five presidents. Finally, her letter to President Lincoln is credited for convincing him to support the concept as a unifying event after the Civil War.

The Sarah Josepha Hale Award is one of the nation's oldest and most distinguished literary awards. It has gone to such luminaries as Robert Frost, John Hersey, Ogden Nash, John Kenneth Galbraith, Arthur Miller, Ellen Goodman, and Ken Burns.

Mary Had a Little Lamb


Mary had a little lamb,

Little lamb, little lamb.

Mary had a little lamb,

Its fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went,

Mary went, Mary went,

Everywhere that Mary went,

The lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day,

School one day, school one day.

It followed her to school one day,

Which was against the rules.

It made the children laugh and play,

Laugh and play, laugh and play.

It made the children laugh and play

To see a lamb at school

And so the teacher turned it out,

Turned it out, turned it out.

And so the teacher turned it out,

But still it lingered near,

And waited patiently about,

Patiently about, patiently about,

And waited patiently about,

Till Mary did appear.

"Why does the lamb love Mary so?"

Love Mary so? Love Mary so?

"Why does the lamb love Mary so?"

The eager children cry.

"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know."

Loves the lamb, you know, loves the lamb, you know.

"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,"

The teacher did reply

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