One of the things my lady was very up front with me on when we first started dating was that she loved gyros. I mean, loooooooves gyros.
Which is a markedly different position than what I have had of them. In fact, on this very blog I identified at least 28 sandwiches superior to it (muffulettas were not an option and I’m sure there were others not on the list). My assessment of the gyro was:
Not the most ringing of endorsements! So I’d pretty much decided that this was just going to be one of those agree to disagree items…
…until one day when I pulled up the YouTube and saw 3 different How To Make Gyros videos. I took that as a sign that I might need to learn how to make this thing. And I have to say, I think I ended up making one far better than any that I’ve gotten in an anywhere.
So the first thing we need to do is define what a gyro is. I’ve enlisted my friend, Fluffy, to explain:
So what did we learn?
a) always start with English
b) never assume that the other person is Mexican because of the color of their skin
c) you might die if you pronounce it Jy-ro instead of Ye-ro
d) people will just let you think whatever you want to make a sale
I guess a gyro is similar to a taco in that there are meats and vegetables, wrapped in a flatbread with a sauce. But no, it’s totally not.
To make this recipe, I used 2 of the 3 videos I saw and incorporated those into this recipe: Joshua Weissman’s, who has become the It food YouTuber,
and Brian Lagerstrom’s, who came up with the method to make the gyro meat in a food processor.
So the base of the gyro starts with the pita bread. Now, this presents a problem, because there is not a single store bought pita bread that isn’t the driest piece of cardboard you’ve ever tried to eat. Seriously, they’re terrible; Brian’s video even suggests using tortillas as a substitute, which I agree is better than a store bought pita.
But no, we can do better than that. You can easily make pitas that will be 1000% better than anything you’ll get at Kroger. Now let’s hear your reasons why you can’t do this:
Oh Adam, I can’t mix the dough because my wife got the Kitchen-Aid mixer in the divorce!
Ok, so 1) you’ve never been married, 2) you had to look up that there’s a hyphen between Kitchen and Aid, and 3) you can mix this by hand.
Ok, well fine, but I bet you need one of those high powered ovens and pizza stones you see them use on the Guy Fieri shows!!
No, any old oven is fine, and you can use the back of a sheet pan in place of a pizza stone.
Ha! I gotcha! I don’t have a sheet pan!!
I mean…how have you gotten this far in life…every Target in America sells them…
(I have a Jewish mother, I’ve got a black belt in anticipating every possible way something could go wrong.)
Making this is pretty easy. Other than using some time management skills to plan how long you’ll need to let the dough rise and warm the oven, there’s not a lot of skill to it, and once you roll out one of the pitas it’s easy to replicate.
I should note, this recipe will give you some really large pitas. Which is awesome, but if you’re not prepared for it I suppose could be a bit jarring. If you’re wanting smaller ones, I would divide the dough into 10-12 pieces instead of the recommended 8. Or you could cut the recipe as well, but make sure you refamiliarize yourself with the pi r squared formula for the area of a circle if you do – linear math doesn’t work with circles.
After you’ve cooked up your pitas, you’ll have a pile of breads that look like this,
Just having done this, you’ve made something that would be one of the 5 greatest accomplishments of like 75% of the population. So you’re already killing it, and it’s only going to get better from here.
So most gyros have tomato slices in them and are dressed with tzatziki, which is a cucumber yogurt sauce (but you already knew that from when I made fun of gyros above). The problem with cucumbers is, well they’re basically water, and if you grate them up to put into a yogurt sauce and don’t drain them perfectly, then you’re going to have a watery sauce. But, instead, what if we combined the cucumbers and tomatoes into a relish, and then jazzed up the yogurt sauce?
(I’ve never jazzed anything up before, but there’s a first time for everything.)
The relish is really easy to put together. There are just two things you have to keep in mind.
1. Get an English seedless cucumber (ones that are wrapped individually in plastic, like they’re too good to mingle with the other cucumbers…like regular English people), unless you want a lot of the watery seed goop in the relish.
2. Use cherry or grape tomatoes, unless you want a lot of nasty tomato goo in the relish.
Knock yourself out if you want the goo, but those of us that like tasty things will pass.
A little chopping of the veggies, a squirt of lemon juice, and a little olive oil, and you’ve got yourself a relish.
The yogurt sauce is even easier. Adding mayo gives it a little more body, and if you use Duke’s mayo, well then you’ve added some real flavor too.
Fresh dill (no dry stuff) adds the sort of pickle flavor to it, and when you’ve mixed it all up, this is the beauty you’ll get.
Now, let’s talk about the meat…baby…let’s talk about you and me…let’s talk about all the good ok I’ve taken this too far.
The best way to approximate the texture of a typical gyro meat, unless you’re buying your own spit or rotisserie keep reading you know you’re not, is to combine the mixture in a food processor. The mixture needs to be ground almost into a paste, and that’s not going to happen without a food processor, unless you plan on chopping everything for a couple hours.
Also, you’ll have to process this in 2 batches, unless you’ve got a big one. It’s a small inconvenience but you will regret it if you try and do it all together. Learn from my mistakes.
So all you need to do is get your hands on some 90/10 ground beef (this is key because a higher fat content is going to cause flareups on the grill, which was cool when you were in grade school and thought fire was just awesome, but now you need less fire to make your food taste good), ground lamb (every grocery store has it now), onions, garlic, bread crumbs, and a bunch of spices. Then shape them into 6 balls, kind of football shaped.
The video suggests then sticking a couple skewers through each ball. Now, this requires you to remember to soak wooden skewers overnight so they don’t catch fire on the grill. It also requires you to have the balls on a flat enough surface where the skewer goes through the same depth across the entire ball. And it’s doable, but I found it to be a pain. I still did it, but next time I will probably pass.
I’m going to assume that you have a grill of some sort and know how to operate it. Could you do this on the stovetop? You could, but you are going to miss out on the char flavor, and that’s kind of a big deal for this.
(You didn’t think I was going to pass on that opportunity, did you?)
If you’re doing this on a charcoal grill, wait until the flames have died down before you put the balls on it – there’ll be plenty of heat there from the coals, don’t worry. Five minutes on each side should do the trick.
Then take the balls off the grill, and just admire the beauty of these for a minute.
How is this not going to be a good meal?
From here it’s pretty simple. Take the skewers out of the balls (I feel like I shouldn’t need to say that but you never know), and then slice them up into bite size pieces. I split each ball in half and then cut them into smaller slices.
Then it’s assembly time. Get yourself one of your pitas, slather some yogurt sauce on it, then put way too many meat slices on it, and top it off with the tomato-cucumber relish.
Take a second and look at it. You made a hell of a sandwich! This is better than anything you’re going to get from a local shop! The only bad thing…no juice.
14 g instant yeast
18 g sugar
487 g water
750 g all purpose flour
15 g fine or kosher salt
150 g English cucumber (about 1/2 large or 1 medium), halved and seeded, medium diced
150 g cherry or grape tomatoes (about 1/2 clamshell in most stores), halved or quartered depending on your taste
1/2 red onion, medium diced
1/3 cup chopped parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c plain yogurt
1/3 c mayo
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 T fresh dill, minced
1 pound ground beef (90/10 or leaner)
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
1/2 c breadcrumbs (panko if you have them)
1 T cumin
1 T ground coriander
2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t black pepper
1 t chili flakes
1 t salt
For the pitas
Pour the yeast, sugar, and water into a bowl. Whisk together and let sit for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, pour the flour and salt in and combine. Add the yeast mixture and mix by hand until everything comes together and forms a rough dough. Then knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until it becomes smooth.
Lightly oil a new bowl, and transfer the dough to it. Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 1 hour.
Once you’re ready to start forming and baking, put the baking sheet in the over, upside down (or a pizza stone or baking steel if you have one), and preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
Punch the dough down to remove the gas that has built up. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces. Roll each piece into a tight ball, then move to a baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Allow the dough balls to rise for 15 minutes.
Lightly flour a work surface, and place a dough ball on it. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a disc about 8 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with all other balls, covering with a damp cloth as you go.
Open the oven door and pull out the rack with the baking sheet or pizza stone. Gently place the disc onto the sheet (if you have a pizza peel, this would be a good time to use that). Close the oven door, and allow it to bake for 1-2 minutes, or until the disc puffs. Open the oven door, and flip the pita and allow it to bake for another 1-2 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and repeat for the rest of the discs.
For the relish and sauce
Combine ingredients and set aside.
For the meat mixture
Add the onions and garlic to a food processor, and pulse until diced fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process until the meat is broken down and almost worked into a paste.
Remove the meat from the food processor, and divide into 6 even balls. Form each ball into an oblong patty. If using skewers, place two through the patties to hold together.
Heat grill. If using gas, preheat to high, then bring it down to medium high for cooking (it should be about 450 degrees).
Oil the grill grate, and spray oil onto the patties. Place the patties on the grill and cook on the first side for 5 minutes (be prepared with a water bottle to stop any flareups). Flip and cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes, until the patties are done through.
Pull the patties off the grill and allow them to rest for 5 minutes. Remove skewers, and slice into bite size pieces.
Assemble gyros and eat.