The best lamb burger I ever had was prepared  by a Greek man at a farmer’s market in Kinsale, Ireland.  The secret ingredient, he told me, was the addition of ouzo – a Greek anise-flavored spirit (similar to Italy’s Sambuca).  So I decided to make lamb meatballs using ouzo and they were phenomenal!  Don’t be afraid of the anise flavor – it isn’t licoricey.  Ouzo gives depth of flavor and keeps the meatballs deliciously moist.  No dipping sauce is needed for these flavorful lamb meatballs.

To make-ahead for a party, prepare the meatballs up to 2 days in advance and undercook them.  Reheat in the microwave for about 2 minutes, adding an additional minute at a time if needed.

Ouzo Lamb Meatballs

1 lb. ground lamb

3 Tbs. ouzo

½ yellow onion, chopped

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium garlic clove, minced

3 Tbs. fresh mint, finely chopped

1 ½ Tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 Tbs. capers (rinsed), finely chopped

1 large egg + 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

½ tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 lemon, zested

1.            Place meat in medium bowl, add ouzo and let sit.  Sautee onions in 1 Tbs. olive oil until soft and caramelized, about 5 minutes.  Add onion to meat mixture.

2.            Add remaining ingredients to meat mixture and knead until well combined and smooth.  Using moistened hands or a small spring-loaded scoop, form meat mixture into 1” meatballs and place on a baking sheet.

3.            Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in large skillet, cooking meatballs in batches until browned on all sides (size of batch depends of size of your skillet – keep the skillet hot by leaving plenty of room for each meatball).  Keep cooked meatballs warm on a baking sheet in a pre-heated 200-degree oven.  Sprinkle meatballs with lemon zest before serving.