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Monday, February 27, 2012

It's All Greek to Me!

Not everyone has a restaurant nearby that serves gyro sandwiches. And if you love gyros, like I do, you wish they were easier to get! Well, why not make them at home?

I know, I know… it sounds like a very daunting task to make something like gyro meat at home. I mean, c’mon… how do you get them on that huge skewer, and who has one of those weird roasters sitting around their house?

Well, you don’t need one! It can be as easy as mixing it up and popping it in the oven, even easier than a meatloaf preparation. I’ve made homemade gyro meat, and tzatziki sauce, several times. It’s amazing how easy it is, and how much it tastes like what you can get in a restaurant.

And you can use the meat for more than just the typical pita sandwiches. Gyro meat makes a great addition to salads, or use it in omelets, like I did in the picture above. I made that omelet on Friday morning. I added a little dried oregano to the egg/milk mixture, then some browned gyro meat, sliced onions, diced tomatoes, chopped Kalamata olives, and feta cheese rolled into it, topped with tzatziki and more feta. Served with some Greek-seasoned potatoes, it made a very filling and tasty breakfast.

Following, you will find the recipes I use for the creation of these Greek treats. Be sure to read through the “Frank Notes” at the conclusion of each recipe to get more insight and other options for the recipes.

Let me know when you give this a try… I want to hear your feedback! Opa!

Gyro Meat

1 medium white onion, chopped or shredded
2 lb. ground lamb
1 Tblsp. garlic, finely minced
1 Tblsp. dried marjoram
1 Tblsp. dried ground rosemary
2 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper

  1. Process the onion in a food processor for 10-15 seconds, until well pulped. Dump the onion out into a clean cotton kitchen towel (tea towel), placed inside a colander.
  2. Gather up the corners of the towel and twist to squeeze all the juice out of the onion. Discard the onion juice. (Unless you have some great use in mind for it!)
  3. Place the onion back to the food processor and add the lamb, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Process until it is the consistency of a well-homogenized, fine paste. Scrape down sides, as necessary.

Now, you can cook the meat mixture in the oven or on a rotisserie.

To Cook in the Oven:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Press the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press all the way to the sides of the pan, and packing it in well.
  3. Place pan into a water bath and bake for approximately 60-75 minutes, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 165-170°F.
  4. Remove from oven and drain off any fat.
  5. Place pan on a cooling rack and place a foil-wrapped brick directly on top of the meat. Allow to sit for around 20 minutes, until an internal temperature of 175°F is achieved.
  6. Slice thin portions from the loaf, and brown them in a hot skillet. Serve on pita bread with chopped or slice tomatoes, sliced white onions, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce.

To Cook on a Rotisserie:
4.      Form the meat mixture into a loaf shape and place atop two overlapping pieces of plastic wrap, that are at least 18inches long.
5.      Roll the mixture up in the plastic wrap, tightly, making sure to leave no air pockets.
6.      Twist ends of plastic wrap until tight. Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours, or up to overnight, to firm the mixture up.
7.      Preheat the grill to high.
8.      Unwrap meat and place onto rotisserie skewer. Place heavy duty aluminum foil, folded into a tray, directly under the meat to catch any drips (aka: flame up hazards!)
9.      Cook on high approximately 15 minutes.
10.  Turn heat to medium and continue to slowly cook another 20-30 minutes, or until internal temperature of 165°F.
11. Shut off heat and allow to rotate another 10-15 minutes, to an internal temperature of 175°F.
12.  Shave from the skewer and serve with chopped or slice tomatoes, white onion slices, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce on pita bread.

Frank Notes:
  1. You can do a mix of lamb and beef. I would not recommend going over a 50/50 mix. If you have more beef than lamb, you’re going to lose that authentic flavor.
  2. Sometimes the gyro meat will come out not quite like what you’ve had before. If you actually add a bit more salt, or even some monosodium glutamate (MSG), you will achieve that more familiar gyro flavor.
  3. Lamb can be a fatty meat (in reality, just a lower melting point, so more fat is rendered out at lower temperatures), so be aware, there will be a good amount of grease to drain off after the oven cooking.
  4. Don’t be alarmed by how much the loaf will shrink when baking! (see Note #4, above)
  5. The browning of the sliced meat helps add a little more flavor to the meat. I recommend not skipping this suggestion.
  6. The cooked loaf can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil, and placed in the freezer. You probably won’t want to wait to eat this up, though.
  7. I have yet to do the rotisserie method. But, I’m sure it is probably even tastier than the oven cooking!

Tzatziki Sauce

16 oz. yogurt, plain OR 16 oz. Greek yogurt, plain
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped or shredded
1 pinch kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tblsp. olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
5-6 mint leaves, finely minced

If using Greek yogurt (much thicker consistency), skip step #1
  1. Place yogurt in clean, cotton kitchen towel. Gather up corners, twist, and suspend over a bowl to drain for approximately 2 hours.
  2. Place chopped or shredded cucumber is the same type of tea towel, and squeeze out liquid. Discard this liquid.
  3. Combine drained (or Greek) yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint in a medium mixing bowl.
  4. Serve as a sauce for gyros, or as a dipping sauce for a number of foods.

Frank Notes:
  1. Greek yogurt is pricier than regular yogurt, but you can cut the draining step. It’s a personal decision.
  2. Often, lemon juice could be used, in place of red wine vinegar. Both add an acidic property to the sauce. I would substitute the juice of about a half lemon for the 2 tsp. of vinegar. Definitely taste the sauce for seasoning.
  3. As with any sauce mixture like this, the more time it sets in the refrigerator, the better the flavors can marry and make the sauce better.
  4. This sauce can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week, or so, in the refrigerator. This recipe will yield approximately 1 ½ cups. I would not recommend trying to freeze this sauce. 

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