I’ve cooked a lot in my life. Various cultures’ cuisines that I’ve either learned from friends and their families, restaurants I’ve worked in, or from other restauranteurs willing to share their ideas. One such cuisine not traditional to my family is Lebanese. The bright and bold flavours, the heartiness of it with few ingredients, were always a draw. Invariably my North American palate seems to swing back and forth between cultures and especially so in Canada where multiculturalism is wholeheartedly embraced. Yet through this global variety within my own country, my palate seems to always gravitate back to the simple burger.
The burger is one of those things that can be morphed based largely on the bun, the condiments or other toppings. The meat can be changed (beef, bison, chicken, turkey, wild boar, ostrich, the options go on and on). But if you search globally for the same idea: a piece of manipulated meat stuffed in a baked dough wrapper of some kind you can find the French gallette, the Hungarian porkoltt-stuffed langos, the Russian pelmeni or the Lebanese kibbi-stuffed pita.
As I mentioned, I’m a big fan of Lebanese food and the idea of the kibbi is intriguing. Normally it is softened bulghur wheat mixed into spiced ground beef and grilled either on a skewer or as a patty.
I thought this was the perfect way to find its way into the North American burger concept. And since I was twisting the notion the burger anyways, I thought the bun wasn’t necessary and I’d take it to another popular North American culinary place: the patty melt. Essentially a cooked burger patty in a grilled cheese sandwich. The bread needs to have a good body to it to stand up to a cooked patty so I’m using a dense loaf from Prairie Mill Bakery where they mill their wheat on site for their breads.
BEEF AND BARLEY KIBBI PATTY MELT
For the Beef and Barley Kibbi Patty:
1 tsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil
1-1/2 cups August Organics yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp salt + a pinch
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tsp cumin seeds
In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium high heat, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally until it starts to soften, reduce heat to medium and keep stirring until it starts to lightly brown. If the edges of some onion pieces brown faster, add a splash of water and stir to ensure the onions caramelize uniformly. Grind the salt, peppercorns, paprika and cumin seed until a fine powder is achieved and add to the caramelized onions.
Stir the spice mixture into the onions and sauté for a minute or until the mixture is deeply aromatic but not overly brown. Allow to cool briefly and add to a food processor.
Add the ground beef and cooked barley to the spiced onion in the food processor.
If your food processor isn’t very big you may have to blend it in batches. Make sure each element (spiced onions, ground beef, barley) is in each batch to blend. Purée in the food processor for 20-30 seconds. The barley won’t purée too much but the mixture will hold together tightly.
Form the mixture into 6 patties. I try to make them somewhat square shaped to fit into a slice of bread and press them as flatly as possible.
To prepare the Beef and Barley Kibbi Patty Melt:
6 prepared Beef and Barley Kibbi Patties
12 slices Prairie Mill Bakery Honey Wheat bread
12 Tbsp butter
2/3 cup Garlic Yogurt Sauce (recipe below)
200g/8oz Sylvan Star Cheese Cayenne-Green Peppercorn gouda, shredded
For the Garlic Yogurt Sauce:
In a medium bowl, blend together all the ingredients until smooth. Set aside for the garlic flavours to meld in the yogurt (at least 20 minutes).
Preheat an indoor grill to medium high (I use a heavy duty panini press). Grill the Beef and Barley Kibbi Patties for 7-10 minutes until golden and cooked through.
While the patties are grilling, heat a large skillet over medium low heat. Spread one side of the bread with butter and spoon the other side with a tablespoon or so of Garlic Yogurt sauce. Lay the bread, buttered side down on the preheated skillet and sprinkle with shredded cheese. The medium low heat should melt the cheese smoothly while not overly browning the bread since the bread is whole wheat and can be prone to browning more quickly.
Place the cooked patty on the grilled cheese bread, top with another grilled cheese bread and serve. Serves 6 (seriously, if you eat more than one it’s a feat. It’s VERY filling).