Monday, July 14, 2014

UnRecipe: You're My Hero, DIY Gyro! (and the Interwebs, too)

Sometimes I think, I should try and write down more of my recipes and actually make this a real recipe blog. And then I ignore that voice and keep reading through cookbooks, browsing recipes sites, and other cooking blogs, which basically all inform how this blog winds up. In the evenings, I multitask while re-watching that Downton Abbey episode for the fourth time to figure out what the hell is going on, and dinking around on my smartphone, reading recipes and looking up what other people do with specific ingredients. This is exactly what happened not long ago, when a wicked craving for gyros came about, and the solution was (as always) The Interwebs.

Make-at-home-gyros on lavash; a near-perfect restaurant-style reproduction - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Gyros are addictive. Or more to the point, the meat is addictive. What the hell is it? It's not like al pastor-style of rotisserie grilling, where whole cuts of meat are stacked on a spindle, spit-roasted and sliced off in little shreddy bits. This stuff is like a spindle of creamy, spiced, meat-mush that's made all crispy and roasted from the intense heat of the grill, shaved off like ribbons of delicious protein before getting sandwiched between soft pita bread and fresh veggies. I don't have one of these meat-spindle-rotisserie contraptions. I never will. Likely you won't either. So are we destined to only get our gyro fix from the pro's? The answer is yes, if you don't want to fuss with the steps of making it yourself, but wouldn't it be nice to know how to DIY this magical meat?

As always, I credit The Interwebs for food fixin's and the like. I looked up several make-at-home gyro meat recipes, but the one I went with was on the always-reliable Brown Eyed Baker blog. I used the lamb prep for her Greek Gyro Recipe, which yields wonderfully flavorful lamb meat, and unlocks the DIY method for getting that perfect rotisserie texture. The key is twice-cooked lamb that goes through a bit of a process before it becomes a sandwich. You have to make a smooth paste from ground lamb and all the herbs and onions; that's what gives it that smooth texture. It's cooked low and slow in an oven, making a tender lamb meatloaf that sets the shape, and then slice off thin pieces from the cooked loaf, which are crisped under a broiler.

I always modify, and my change to her original recipe was, I used a whole slab of boneless lamb shoulder, chopped into rough pieces, tossed with the same marinade ingredients like onion, slices of bacon and fresh oregano, but they were all in big chunks, left to sit overnight in a bowl in the fridge -- this was taken from Alton Brown's recipe for gyro meat. I wanted to give the ingredients as much time to meld flavors. This rough-chop marinade was then all run through a meat grinder -- yes, the herbs, bacon and onions, too. No one needs a meat grinder, but I have to say, I get a surprising amount of use from it, so it's an appliance I often recommend. Anyways, so the lamb ends up looking like a really moist, herby ground meat mixture, giving the ingredients even more time to really saturate with flavor. That was left to chill for a bit before running it in batches through the food processor until smooth.

Everything is doubly-processed, making a somewhat terrifying-looking flesh-toned paste. Trust in the final product, it's worth all the effort and meat-mutilation. I kept thinking, this is how Spam is made. Lamb Spam. I made a double-batch, so I halved the meat-paste and pressed it firmly into two Pyrex loaf dishes. They were covered with foil and cooked at a low temperature. Brown Eyed Baker's recipe cooks at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, I went for 270 degrees, for about an hour and a half -- low, slow, and covered. I don't want browned meat, just something gently cooked until tender. The lamb meat loaves shrink a bit and give off a good bit of liquid and fat in the dish -- discard that properly and allow the lamb loaves to cool to where you can easily handle and slice thin shavings that will get a final crisping under the broiler.

Yes, it's a lot of steps, but it's SO worth the effort - Photos by Wasabi Prime
True, it's a bit of an effort to prepare the meat, but that's why a double batch is a good idea. Once you have these cooked loaves of seasoned meat-paste, you can slice off pieces and make gyros to your heart's content. I think this method would also work for other meats like turkey or beef, if you're not a fan of lamb. Also, you'll of course notice I didn't use pita bread. I went with lavash, a thinner, more dry and slightly less carby bread, making flat, taco-like gyros. Use what you like, but the lavash works well if you soften in the microwave for a few seconds. Or don't use bread at all -- I was tossing leftover meat with greens, tomatoes and cucumber, making gyro salads.

Typically tzatziki sauce is on gyros, but I wanted the Whammy -- the Lebanese garlic sauce called toum, which is like garlic sauce on steroids. I first had this sauce at my favorite Lebanese place, Mediterranean Kitchen. They put it on everything. It looks innocuous enough, a white, creamy sauce drizzled on just about everything, but you take a bite and you'll be preventing vampire attacks for days. I used the recipe and method for toum on Mama's Lebanese Kitchen -- this made a powerfully strong garlic sauce that's the closest in flavor to what Mediterranean Kitchen makes, if you're also a fan of their garlic attack. I added extra oregano for some color, and about 2-3 tablespoons of this toum to about 2 cups of plain, lowfat yogurt, mixed with minced cucumber and mint will yield an amazing tzatziki for your gyros.

I don't like republishing other people's recipes unless I really modified the hell out of them, making it too difficult to explain, but I really want to recommend this rockstar combination of lamb meat and a Lebanese-style tzatziki sauce for gyros, so do check out their recipes -- you'll be saying DIY Gyro is my Hero in no time.

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