Serious Eats has done it again. That is, convinced me to give up my Sunday in a quest to master their perfect "insert restaurant item of choice here." Last time, it was the fries. This time, gyros. I mean, I could've left well enough alone and stuck with the memory of perfect gyros sold at my favorite food cart in NYC but I pride myself on a certain amount of eccentric bravado that leads me to exclaim jauntily, "I can make this better at home," every time I eat something outside the walls of my super tiny apartment. It's this attitude that convinced me I could make naan at home and almost burn down my kitchen trying to create an indoor tandoor.
Serious Eats is pretty much the work of a diabolical genius. They do crazy taste-test comparisons of various brands of American cheese (note: I LOVE American cheese). They have compared various brands of Japanese curry blocks (note: I also LOVE Japanese curry). And, they developed a way to make McDonald's french fries at home (note: you already know I LOVE french fries). So, in short, I love them. I wish they would hire me to, um, be their official taste tester? Coffee bringer? Dog walker? Cheerleader? I'm keepin' my fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I'm taking on their crazy recipes, one Sunday at at time. The make-your-own-gyro was definitely a two day project. Saturday was spent gathering all the ingredients I didn't have. Ground lamb, bacon, gyro flat bread, and a creamy yogurt. I generally have single serving containers of Greek yogurt on hand but I gave my last one to the office receptionist as a peace offering after I mistook her husband for her father. Yup, that's how I roll, offering food every time I stick my foot in my mouth (which is often). The ground lamb, flat bread, and yogurt were easy. The bacon, not so much.
When you're Muslim, your experience with bacon is severely limited. And by severely limited, I mean non-existent. So there I am, standing in front of the giant bacon display at my local grocery store. Keep in mind, I have never eaten, much less, purchased bacon before. I hesistantly reached for a pack of turkey bacon when the gentleman, a Santa Claus clone if there ever was one, standing next to me rumbles, "Oh darlin', you don't want that garbage! You want the real stuff," and he grabs the fattiest pack of pork bacon and throws it in my basket. I smiled, cringing at the bacon sitting primly on my loaf of sourdough, and explained that I didn't eat pork. "Hell, why didn't ya say so? This stuff's almost as good as the real deal," the giant boomed. I grinned at his unknowing hell reference as he proceeded to pluck the pork bacon out of my basket and replace it with beef bacon. I took his word for because he looked like he'd eaten a fair bit of bacon in his day. Heck, he'd probably eaten a fair bit of bacon today.
Come Sunday, the hubster and I suspicously stared at the foreign package in the fridge. "You think we should try some?" he asked hesitatingly. "I guess," I answered, equally hesitatingly. So, we did what any two crazy, Muslim kids would do. We fried up a couple o' slices of beef bacon. Holy Batman, Muslims of the world, hear me. We have been missing out. This stuff is good. I can only imagine how good it'd be with a side of eggs, crunchy sourdough toast, and an espresso. Pretty darn good, I'm willing to bet. I can't say for certain because we ate all five pieces, sans forks, while standing by the stove.
With bellies full of beef bacon, we began the gyro project. Like all Serious Eats recipes, this one was labor intensive. It seemed particularly so because I don't have a proper food processor. For years, I've been using the "food processor jug" that came with my crappy blender and it's been fine so I see no reason to invest in a real food processor. Needless to say, we had to process the meat mixture in thirty-six batches because the jug wasn't large enough to do it in one go.
Before shaping the mixture into log form, I'd recommend frying up a small bit, tasting it, and adjusting the seasonings. As a result, we added more salt, garlic, and a bit of cayenne. I wish we could've taken some oregano out because the oregano flavor was a bit strong at the end. I also found it took about six minutes in the final broil phase to get those flavor-filled, charred edges we all know and love.
I also wished the yogurt dressing was a little more garlicky or something. Even adding sriracha, generally my solution of choice, didn't really help. Suffice it to say, something was off but I was too tired to figure it out. At that point, I pretty much just wanted to eat (a lot).
The best part about the recipe was discovering these pre-oiled gyro pitas. They aren't pre-oiled enough but I don't hold that against them because they are good! Throw some oil in your pan and heat them up for light, fluffy goodness. Overall though, something was lacking in this recipe. Hey Serious Eats, I'm sure I can figure out the missing piece if I continue experimenting while on your payroll. No? You sure?
- Serves 4 -
For the meat:
1 pound ground lamb
2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 slices beef bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
4 pieces soft, hand-pulled-style pita (not pocket pita)
Chopped fresh tomato
Finely sliced onion
1. Combine lamb, salt, pepper, and oregano in medium bowl. Mix with hands until homogeneous. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to over night. Meanwhile, place yogurt in fine-mesh strainer set over small bowl. Allow to drain in refrigerator for 1 hour. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 300°F. Place cold mixture in bowl of food processor with onion, garlic, and bacon. Process until smooth puree is formed, scraping down sides with rubber spatula as necessary.
2. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. With moist hands, form meat mixture into rectangle about 1 1/2 inches high, 8-inches long, and 5-inches wide. Bake until center of loaf reads 155°F on an instant read thermometer, about 30 minutes. Allow loaf to rest at room temperature for fifteen minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make sauce. Combine strained yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, and parsley and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.
4. Adjust broiler rack to highest position (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches from broiler element) and preheat broiler. Slice loaf crosswise into 1/8th to 1/4-inch strips (each strip should be about 5-inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide). Lay strips on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and broil until edges are brown and crispy, about 6 minutes.
5. Heat bread on oiled pan until lightly browned and slightly crisp, then flip and repeat.
6. Spread 1/4 cup of sauce over each piece of bread. Divide meat evenly between sandwiches. Top as desired, wrap with foil, and serve.
Adapted from Serious Eats