Homemade Gyros: Yahoo for Yee-Ro!

You know what a gyro is, right? It’s a Greek specialty of ground lamb and beef, cooked, sliced and usually put into a sandwich with a big slather of tzatziki, that delicious condiment of yogurt and cucumber and herbs. It’s that giant cylinder of meat on a slow vertical rotisserie that cooks and crisps as it turns. It’s pronounced yee-ro, at least in Atlanta (which has a sizable Greek population) where I grew up, and not jai-ro, which sounds pretty stupid to me, although I’ve heard it pronounced that in the Northeast quite a bit.
 

Warm, soft flatbread with crispy gyro meat, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and tzatziki

I’ve been tinkering around with a homemade gyro recipe on and off for a while now, because regardless of how much I love gyros at family style Greek restaurants, I always suspect that the giant logs of frozen, pre-formed gyro “meat” are packed with fillers and made from dubious meat sources. I’ve read that they’ll contain soy proteins and economy trimmings of beef and lamb, as well as shocking amounts of sodium. Now, I’m hardly a food alarmist, but I feel strongly about knowing the source of the meat I ingest. At the very least I want to use the highest quality lamb and beef, preferably organically fed and humanely raised.

I’d made a few (slightly dubious) batches before stumbling upon Alton Brown’s recipe on the Food Network site. His recipe was very close to my attempts, but he had a couple of innovations that improved upon my recipe — squeezing the onions to reduce excess moisture in the final product, and weighting the cooked gyro “meatloaf” with a brick to make it firmer. These tricks were helpful, although I ended up going for a combination of lamb and beef (Alton uses only lamb.) and I eschewed his dried herbs for finely minced fresh herbs. Finally, I didn’t care for his tzatziki recipe so I’ve made my own.

Anyway, if you wish, check out his recipe. But make mine first!

You will need:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic,minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or marjoram
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaf
1 tablespoon Greek Seasoning (Konriko brand, if possible.)
2 teaspoons kosher salt or fleur de sel
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
pinch cinnamon
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef (15% fat content)
extra virgin olive oil
pita bread or Greek style flatbread
chopped tomato
shredded romaine lettuce
chopped onion
Tzatziki, recipe follows

Take a big bite outta that gyro! Opa!

Do This:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the onion in a food processor and pulse until fine. Remove and place in the middle of kitchen towel; squeeze dry. Dry the processor bowl well and replace onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and dried spices. Process by pulsing several times or until everything is well mixed. Add meat and 2 tablespoons olive oil and process for 1 to 2 minutes until it’s a fine paste, scraping down sides of the food processor occasionally if necessary.

Place the mixture into a loaf pan and press into the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into another, larger pan and pour boiling water around the smaller loaf pan to create a water bath. Bake for 15 minutes and reduce heat to 325. Bake another 45 minutes.

Remove loaf pan from the water bath and place on a cooling rack. Over the meat place a brick wrapped in a aluminum foil. Press under the brick for 30 minutes. Remove meat, drain off excess oil, and with a sharp slicing knife cut long pieces about 1/4 inch thick.

Over medium-high flame heat a non-stick saute pan. Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and crisp one side of the gyro meat. Remove slices and make your sandwiches! Put meat on flatbread or inside the cut pocket of good pita bread. Add tomatoes, onion, lettuce, and tzatziki. Eat up!

Tzatziki

Mix together the following until well-combined. Refrigerate until ready for use.

1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely chopped cucumber (preferably Persian)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced mint leaf
1 teaspoon fresh dill
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
pinch kosher salt

.

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