Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oh Brick, You're My Gyro!!!

I've always loved the exotic flavors of a well made gyro, pronounced "year-oh." These delicious lamb and pita sandwiches go way back to the Arabs (who call them "shawurma"), the Turks (who call them "doner kebabi"), and the Greeks (who call them "gyro"). These all consist of seasoned slices of meat (usually lamb) skewered and cooked on a vertical rotisserie, not unlike "tacos al pastor" in Mexico, which was created by Lebanese immigrants. Greek historians attribute the origin of the gyro to the army of Alexander the Great, who skewered their meat on long knives and cooked it by repeatedly turning over an open fire. 

The gyros that we know today are a more recent invention by Greek restaurants in the United States since the 1970's. There is a great debate whether they began in New York or Chicago; however, it was in Chicago that gyros became mass produced, by Gyros, Inc., et al., who ground beef and lamb trimmings and shaped them into "cones" that were then sold to Greek restaurants throughout the country. In fact, according to Mr. Parthenis, Gyros, Inc. engineer, "the first gyros ever shipped out of Chicago we put on a Greyhound bus, headed to Atlanta. Frozen in a double corrugated box, with the luggage." Either way, I didn't realize you could successfully make your own until I found this recipe for "Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce" from Alton Brown, which, requires a BRICK! Yes, I said, a BRICK! You mix everything in a food processor, cook in a loaf pan, cool with an aluminum foil wrapped brick on top, then slice and serve when ready. I prefer a mix of lamb and beef, and to fry the slices in a little olive oil per order. This recipe serves 6-8, so you'll be able to store the loaf in the refrigerator and make a gyro in a matter of minutes! If you like gyros, you'll love this authentic tasting recipe! It's delicious!

Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce

Serves 6-8

1 medium onion, finely chopped or shredded
2 pound ground lamb (I recommend 1/2 lamb, 1/2 beef)
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Tzatziki sauce (recipe below)
Pita bread, sliced onion, tomatoes, feta cheese, lettuce, and/or french fries (which is typical of some establishments!), however you prefer

Process the onion in a food processor for 10-15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice.

Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb (and beef, if using), garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60-75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165-170 degrees. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175.

(If you don't have a brick, I'm sure something flat and heavy would work just as well!)

Slice and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, onion, tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Tzatziki Sauce

Makes 1 1/2 cups

16 ounce plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
Pinch of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Squeeze of fresh lemon
1 teaspoon finely chopped dill or mint (I prefer dill)

Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl (in a colander), and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard the liquid. In a medium bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon, and dill or mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown.

1 comment: