Greek Lamb Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce
Yesterday, I told you all about the amazing gyros that my Chief Culinary Consultant and I used to get when he was living outside of D.C. Since he moved back two years ago, we have been in a serious gyro drought. Thank the gyro gods that the house we bought is located only about five minutes from a fabulous gyro joint here in Pittsburgh. In the meantime, however, I’ve been dreaming about making gyros at home. Gyros are one of those things that just seem… impossible to make at home, right? Sort of like pop-tarts. As I’ve come to learn, however, nothing is impossible in the kitchen. These gyros are proof in the pudding… they were not very difficult to make, and are every bit as good (better, even) than our favorites from Greek and Middle Eastern take out joints.
While traditional gyro meat is cooked on a vertical spit and then shaved off, that’s not exactly practical in a home kitchen. In order to get those thin strips of meat cooked to the correct consistency, it’s actually baked twice. A combination of ground lamb, seasonings, onion, garlic and slab bacon are processed together to form a cohesive mass. The mixture is shaped into a meatloaf, for lack of a better word, and baked at a low temperature. Once given time to sit, very thin strips of meat are sliced off, then laid in a pan and broiled for a couple of minutes.
I was seriously stunned at how similar this meat tasted to the gyro meat that I have been accustomed to. It has so much flavor and the texture is just perfect.
When serving gyros, you want to look for pocketless pita bread, which can also be referred to as “hand-pulled”. Naan or flatbread can also work in a pinch. Then, pile on the meat, tzatziki sauce, chopped tomatoes and thinly sliced onion. Wrap it all up and then dig in. Don’t forget some extra tzatziki sauce on the side; you can never have enough of that awesomeness.
I love being proven wrong when I think a certain type of food is beyond being made at home. Who am I kidding? Everything can be made at home, and it’s usually better than you can get elsewhere. These gyros are no exception.
Lamb Gyros Recipe
For the Gyro Meat:
- 1 pound (453.59 g) ground lamb
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- ½ (0.5 ) yellow onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 3 ounces (85.05 g) slab bacon, or 5 slices sliced bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
- Pocketless pita bread
- Tzatziki Sauce
- Tomato, coarsely chopped
- Yellow onion, thinly sliced
- Make the Gyro Meat: In a medium bowl, combine the ground lamb, salt, pepper and oregano leaves with your hands, mixing until all of the seasonings have been evenly distributed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place the lamb mixture in the bowl of a food processor and add the onion, garlic and bacon. Process until a smooth puree is formed, 30 seconds to 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. With moistened hands, shape the lamb mixture into a rectangle about 8 inches long and 5 inches wide. Bake until the center of the loaf reaches 155 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
- Adjust the oven rack to the highest position (1½ to 2 inches below broiler element) and preheat broiler. Slice the loaf of lamb meat crosswise into very thin pieces (they should be about ⅛-inch thick; no more than ¼-inch thick). Lay the strips on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and broil until edges are browned and crispy, 2 to 4 minutes. (I did this in two batches, as I couldn't fit all of the sliced meat on one baking sheet.) Be sure to keep an eye on it, as the broiler works quickly!
- Serve the Gyros: Warm up the bread either in the microwave (30 seconds), on the stovetop or in the oven. Top each with ¼ cup of tzatziki sauce, chopped tomatoes, sliced onions and gyro meat. Wrap with foil and serve.