My first taste of lamb came in my friend Leah’s kitchen – one of them, anyway – when I was in 5th or 6th grade. Her parents, both college professors, were divorced, and they maintained separate households on either side of East Warren Avenue. Both of them were avid cooks, and I was exposed to all sorts of new flavors during the course of my friendship with Leah (her dad’s fried provolone sandwich really merits it’s own post), but there’s one dish I had when we were hanging out that has been stuck in my head lately.
Leah’s mom referred to it as fried kibbeh, though I recall it being a bit lighter on the bulgur and heavier on the lamb than other versions I’ve tried. The thing that really made her mom Anne’s version special was the filling – each crisp patty was stuffed with a spoonful of yogurt, so when you took a bite, you got the flavors of rich, juicy lamb mingling with a molten, tangy center. It was pretty racy stuff, especially to my newly developing palate, and the memory of it still makes me close my eyes and sigh.
So I’m a little sad to report that my first attempt to recreate those swoon-worthy lamb patties was a bit of a disappointment. Oh, sure, they were tasty: the lamb was juicy and flavorful, seasoned with salt and cinnamon, cumin and coriander and a whole mess of finely chopped shallots, but I just couldn’t get that warm, saucy yogurt center to stay intact. I’m eager to try again, though, especially since we get such wonderful yogurt from Narragansett Creamery, and because the bright, fresh flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine are so welcome as we transition into warmer weather.