Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Turn Your Kitchen Greek!

I haven't had a decent gyro since we moved here nearly 5 years ago. I love gyros! A friend introduced them to me way back when I was about 13 or 14 and there was a greek place in the neighborhood where we grew up. I had no idea then that I was eating lamb and what that white sauce was made of, but I know a good thing when I taste one! Ever since, I've always tried to seek out places that make gyros.

The best I ever had was a little hole-in-the-wall place in Ocean City, Md. They didn't even have a place to sit down; you ordered through a window by the sidewalk then you took your paper-wrapped gyro and sat on the beach to eat it. Heaven! My most recent, and the worst, was one of those fake-y frozen meat strips that is supposed to pass for gyro meat and bitter-tasting tzatziki sauce and stale flat bread. I was so disappointed.

I figured that I would get my gyro fix whenever I went to visit friends and family, but every time we head out that way, it's usually for dinner and we're too full to eat anything else. But when I saw my local food store with leg of lamb on sale, marked down because, I assume, lamb isn't too popular around here, I knew I just had to try and make my own gyros!

I raced home to search the handy-dandy 'net for gyro meat recipes and came upon Alton Brown's recipe for both gyro meat and the tzatziki sauce. Looked good, looked authentic, let's try it! Lucky for me, the lamb was still there the next day and I bought it. *My store would not grind it up for me, as they would have to dismantle and wash their meat grinder due to contamination of different meats, but if you try this, ask and see if your store will grind it up for you, you might get lucky.

7 pounds of bone-in, leg of lamb. I'm no butcher, but I had to cut off the layer of fat, then chop into smaller pieces so I could grind it up myself.


My nifty little vintage grinder--Rival's 'Grind-O-Mat'. Don't you just love the names they gave things back then?? I picked this up a few summers ago at the thrift shop and it looked like it was in mint condition, hardly ever used. Not so with me! I use this baby for lots of things! Even for making relish-- chops the veggies into uniform sizes!

Anyway, here's the lamb all chopped up. The bone and fatty bits I cut away was cooked in the oven then given to the dog and cats for a nice treat. I have no scale, but I think the bone and fatty pieces amounted to about 2 lbs., so this would be around 5 pounds of meat, more than enough for what I needed.
grind - grind - grind

I got side-tracked when we had unexpected visitors that came at 8 in the morning and stayed until nearly dinner-time. It was good to see them, but had I known they were coming, I would have planned this for another day. So I didn't get a chance to take pictures of the process like I planned to.
You put the ground lamb into a food processor along with the other ingredients and process until meat looks like a paste. After reading the reviews and comments for the recipe, I used only a teaspoon each of Marjoram and Rosemary instead of the tablespoon it called for.
There are two options to cook it-- meatloaf style or in a rotisserie. The rotisserie would be more authentic, but since I didn't have one, I cooked it meatloaf style. After cooking, you set a foil-wrapped brick on it to help compress the meat and squeeze any fat out.
Here's the meat after I thinly sliced it. Smells and looks and tastes just like the real thing! I am glad that I cut down the amount needed for Marjoram and Rosemary. In the comments, someone suggested broiling the slices in the oven for a little bit of crispiness like the rotisserie would give you. We did that, and I wouldn't do it again. It crisped up a little, but it also dried it out a bit.

I made the tzatziki sauce exactly as the recipe suggested and oh! SO good! I would recommend you make this the day BEFORE you make the gyros because the flavors had time to meld and this tasted so much better the next day when we ate leftovers.

I almost forgot to take a picture of the assembled gyro! We made this just like they do in the restaurants, with sliced onions, tomatoes, feta cheese and warmed flat bread. We served this with onion rings and fries and I swear, it was just like the real thing. There's nothing fake about this gyro!
The recipe calls for 2 lbs. of ground lamb and it made enough for 2 meals! We had plenty for another meal later on and I had some as a snack a few days later and the meat tasted even better! We still have enough ground lamb in the freezer for another time and I'm thinking we might just put a rotisserie on the wish list of items we want.
If you're like me, living out in the country with no decent greek place anywhere, do try this! It's the real thing and it isn't as hard as I imagined making it would be. I'll be keeping an eye out for lamb in the store from now on!


Karen Mayes said...

I am POSITIVELY drooling...

*wiping the drool from the corners of my mouth*

Karen Mayes said...


Just letting you know that I posted your blog on the Deaf Homeschoolers/Unschoolers group in Facebook. I feel that your blog would be a nice resource for homeschooling preschoolers ;o) You could check it out also.

I hope you'd not mind...

Karen Mayes

Kitty said...

That sounds great! My oven has one of those twirly rotisserie things I use, sometimes, for a whole chicken. I think I'll just have to try this... if I can ever find lamb that won't require a mortgage. Thank you so much for this!

lady macleod said...

Well done! Me? I'm looking for the nearest good Greek restaurant...

Carol said...

That looks lovely...I'm glad it turned out so well :-)

C x