Sunday, October 18, 2009

So I Had a Craving

Do you ever get a craving for something? A taste, a flavor you haven't had in a while? When this happens to most people, they rush out to their favorite restaurant to get what ever it is that they crave.

Me I'm a little different, I rush to the computer, then the grocery store, then my kitchen. Don't get me wrong, I love eating out, but there is something satisfying about making something yourself, especially the adventure of making a particular dish for the first time. I had such a craving this weekend, the culprit? Gyros!

Before we dive into the recipe, lets have a few words on my process in doing things like this. I never look at just one recipe when I do things like this, in fact I rarely use one recipe. Instead I tend to look at several, take some notes, cut the recipe down (I'm usually cooking for one, average recipe feeds four)and come up with my interpretation of the recipe. If it is a really odd dish where I don't know the flavor profiles well, I will follow it step by step (first time I made Thai curry I did this, now I can whip one up from whatever is in the fridge). Another big tip, always, always read the comments from others, they have made this before, if everyone is saying increase the liquid by 1/2 a cup, well you should probably do that.

Now onto my craving for Gyros. Gyros, for those who have never had the pleasure, is a Greek originated sandwich. Wikipedia has a much better description than I do here. So I looked at about 7 recipes, most of which used a combination of pork and lamb. Some seemed overly complicated, some used spices that didn't make sense to me. I finally settled on one from Food Network star Alton Brown. His made sense, had some good tips for achieving the correct texture or "mouth feel", and I felt would scale down well. Alton's recipe can be found on the Food Network site.

My version was basically the same except I cut it in half and upped the spices a little bit, I tend to have a heavy hand with the spices. The Tzatziki sauce (a crucial component) I left as is. I baked it in a small loaf pan in the water bath as recommended. To prepare a water bath for baking, put your filled pan in a larger pan and add enough boiling-hot water to reach halfway up the side of the smaller pan. Don't worry about the meat sticking to the loaf pan, the lamb shrinks quite a bit and was easy to remove from the loaf pan. Below is my cut down version, you should easily get 8 gyros from this. I made one for breakfast the day after and grilled my slices of meat in a cast iron pan to warm them and I think this made the meat better. Next time I will do this even with the meat fresh from the oven. Make sure you follow all the steps including resting the meat with a weight on it. I used a large bowl with a couple cans in it as I had no bricks handy.

Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce

Source Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005


  • 1/2 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2-3 cloves finely minced garlic (garlic press would be perfect for this)
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped tomato and onion for garnish
  • fresh pita bread
  • Tzatziki Sauce, recipe follows


Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 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, 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 sides of bowl. This can take much more than one minute depending on your processor, you want a fine sticky paste.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

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 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. 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 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F. Slice, grill quickly in a hot skillet to crisp the meat up a bit and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes.

Tzatziki Sauce:

6-8 ounces plain Greek yogurt

1/2 medium or one small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

Pinch kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

3 mint leaves, finely minced

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

Place the chopped cucumber in a medium mixing bowl, combine with the drained yogurt, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

I followed the recipe fairly closely, next time I will be substituting 1/2 the lamb for ground chicken. I think chicken would be a good choice for this, the flavor should go well with the spices and will reduce the fat and calorie counts as well as making the meal a bit cheaper. I will also do my homemade pitas, I didn't bother this time as I wanted to focus on the new recipe. This is definitely a keeper and would do well for entertaining for a casual party. It could all be made up ahead and then the pitas heated and the meat grilled in a pan just before serving.

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