Michael Psilakis is no burger purist. Like many chefs, he embraced the burger and then blew it apart, using its familiar form as a canvas for creating something new. The version he serves at Anthos, his Greek restaurant in New York City, is a brilliant reinvention. It’s made with lamb, not beef, and a slew of spices and vegetables, including coriander, dill, clove, cumin, grilled onion, and garlic, which are worked right into the ground meat. There are some smart, chef-y touches that you might not even recognize as you devour the thing: because lamb is lean, the chef adds some ground pork and wraps the patty in caul fat, which accounts for its incomparable flavor and juiciness. It’s topped with a lemony feta, olive, and sun-dried tomato salad. The whole thing is exuberant, deeply satisfying, and a bit renegade.
Home cooks and chefs have long made a habit of turning unlikely ingredients into burgers, be it diced raw tuna bound together with wasabi or grilled marinated portobello mushroom caps. But Psilakis’s version seems less ersatz, perhaps because the flavors have traditional roots; the burger is based on a heavily seasoned Cypriot sausage. And it’s not far removed from the backyard burgers that Psilakis’s Greek mother used to make when he was growing up on Long Island. They were just as heavily seasoned, with fresh dill, bread crumbs, and egg. “It was her attempt to make an American food with what she knew and liked,” Psilakis says. “No matter what she put in them, we ate them with ketchup, and they were always delicious.”