Friday, June 14, 2013

Cooking Floyd: I Need A Gyro

We like gyro sandwiches: spicy seasoned ground lamb strips, fresh onions, tomatoes and lettuce, tangy tzatziki sauce, all piled on a soft pillowy pita.   Unfortunately what we mostly get is greasy mystery meat, wilted veggies, some kind of runny white liquid on a dried out flatbread that cracks into pieces when you pick it up.  So I've been on a quest for a few years to make what we know a gyro can be at home.  I think I finally did it!

The next time I make this I'm going to multiply the recipe a few times so I can stick a few blocks of the resulting loaf in the freezer.  It'll be great to be able to thaw a block of gyro meat and drop it on the grill when the urge arises.

Lamb Gyro
2 pounds ground lamb
1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons spice mix (below)
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 - 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh oregano
1 yellow onion cut in half through its equator

Spice Mix
Toss together all of the following:
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch (1/8 tsp.) ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground fennel seed
small pinch (1/16 tsp.) ground coriander

Combine ground lamb, spice mix, and bread crumbs in a large bowl.  Combine well with fingers.

Shape the block into a cube and press it tightly.  Wrap in saran wrap extremely tightly, continuing to keep pressure on.  Store in the refrigerator for 24 hours (or at least over night).

Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat and begin unwrapped lamb cube on one face.  Place the onion on top of the cube.  I didn't understand the purpose of this until everything started heating up.  The onion releases its juices as it softens and bastes the meat!  Genius!

 Cook each side until a little charred.  Remove onion and rotate cube to an uncooked side, replace onion and repeat.  Do this until the lamb has cooked on all sides.  Using a long knife, shave a thin piece of the edge off and and place it inner side down for a minute or two on the grill to brown.  Then remove it to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.  Continue this on all sides until entire block is cooked and shaved.

While the meat was grilling I had a Vidalia onion, cut in thick slices and skewered, grilling on the side.

I also put together this Tzatziki sauce the night before.  I like it best when the flavors have had time to blend but you can make it while the meat's grilling.  It'll just be milder.

Tzatziki Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1-2 finely minced garlic cloves
2 tsp Olive oil
Salt & white pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and chill until ready to use.

In addition to the grilled onion I sliced up a beautiful hothouse tomato from one of our local hydroponic growers, a perfectly ripe avocado, put out a bowl of black olives and a bag of spring mix lettuce from another of our local growers.

A plate of labneh (yogurt cheese) shaped into little balls and rolled in various spices accompanied the veggies.
Labneh is simple to make.  Start with a colander lined with several layers of damp cheesecloth or flour sacking and sit the colander inside a larger bowl.  Into this dump a pound of Greek yogurt.  Gather up the overhanging cloth and twist it up tightly, squeezing the yogurt as much as possible and secure it with a rubber band.  Curl the tail of the cloth around on top of the yogurt package.  Lay a plate that fits inside the colander on top of everything.  On top of the plate put a heavy weight.  I use a 2 quart water-filled mason jar.  Put the whole thing in your fridge and allow to sit for 24 hours.  Pour the accumulated whey out of the bowl at intervals.  You can save this and use it in cooking/baking, water your plants with it or give it to your pets or chickens.  The whey is good nutritious stuff.  After 24 hours unwrap the yogurt which has now become a tangy soft cheese like cream cheese but better!.  To make the miniature cheese balls I used a melon scoop to portion the cheese, rolled it into ball form and then rolled the little cheeses into individual spices.  Here I used dill, an Italian herb blend, curry, cumin, smoked paprika, tomato powder, and turmeric.

The gyros were fabulous!  The spice mix and fresh oregano seasoned the meat perfectly and the grilling technique, although a little time consuming, produced that lovely charred taste and crispy bits that those vertical rotisserie spits achieve.  And very little grease!  It was so good that sitting here writing about it is making me want more now!!

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