A gyro (yee-rō) is a Greek dish, usually a mixture of lamb and beef, roasted on a vertical spit; and is typically served as a sandwich built on a pita bread with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce. Gyros are definitely a family favorite, but a treat we rarely have since the meat is not commonly found here in the Midwest, without visiting a restaurant or our city’s 4th of July festival food court. It never occurred to me that I might be able to make this wonderful, savory meat at home, until we were lucky enough to sample a variety of lamb meats from Shepherd Song Farm. Seeing ground lamb got me thinking about gyros and if I might be able to come up with something similar.
I know, like me, you’ve seen those big vertical rotisseries, spinning slowly, roasting gyro meat, and then the chef stepping up with a large carving knife to shave off thin layers from the large rotating “loaf”. To get the meat, which is obviously ground, to stay put on a vertical spit, I knew it would have to be packed pretty tightly in order to hold together, which meant the meat would have to be ground super fine. I wanted to recreate that almost summer sausage-like texture of gyro meat, without having a vertical spit of my own to roast it on. Since it reminds me so much of sausage, I decided to try and use a variation of my own summer sausage recipe, to create gyro meat at home. After Googling some information, I discovered there are a LOT of varying opinions out there about the ratio of lamb to beef in gyros. I had one pound of each, to work with, so that settled the question for me – a 50-50 ratio it would be! Turns out, that’s absolutely perfect! 🙂
When I made the recipe the first time, I used the same Morton Tender Quick Salt that I use when making summer sausage. Since it is used in the curing process, I thought it might help my gyro meat hold together well and help with that texture I was looking for. It turned out delicious, but I don’t really think I need the meat to be cured. I hadn’t thought ahead to the curing salt giving my meat that deep pink color. They can’t really be using it in traditional gyros, because the meat is usually browned, not pink. I changed my recipe and will be making it with plain Celtic sea salt, in the future. That is reflected in the recipe, below, even though the pictures have the Morton Tender Quick Salt in them.
- I chose beef with a slightly higher fat content than usual, since the lamb is so lean. The long cooking time will require the addition of the extra moisture and the extra fat will enhance flavor.
- I pulsed both the lamb and the hamburger in my high-speed blender, to create the fine texture, I was looking for. Do it in sections, so your blender doesn't "stress", or if you have a food processor, follow the instructions for processing the meat in there. The texture will be almost a paste when you are finished.
- Once the meat is ground as finely as you can get it, mix the lamb and beef together in a large bowl.
- Add all the spices and seasonings.
- Mix thoroughly and be sure your seasonings are well distributed throughout the meat.
- Press the meat firmly into a 9x5 loaf pan and bake at 275 degrees for 2 hours..
- Remove from oven. There will be a substantial amount of drippings in the bottom of the pan. I poured it off and then let the loaf sit in the pan for about 15 minutes before slicing.
- Slice very thin and use to make gyro sandwiches or add to salads.
- 1 cup Greek Yogurt
- 2 large cucumbers, seeded and minced
- 2 tsp dill weed
- 1 tsp fresh garlic, minced
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp. fresh mint, minced fine
- Seed and mince the cucumbers.
- Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow flavors to meld. This gets more flavorful, the longer it sits.
- Enjoy it as the dressing in your gyro sandwiches or as a topping/dressing for any of your favorite dishes.
I’m sure my recipe isn’t much like an authentic Greek grandma’s , but it is truly delicious and my whole family enjoyed my Americanized “Greek” food. 🙂 I hope you’ll enjoy preparing it for your family, too! What “eating out” dishes have you tried to make at home? What were your favorites? Can you share your secret recipe? 🙂