Picture it: Sitting in a Greek restaurant, and you can smell the meat turning on the vertical spit in the kitchen. You can see your dish traveling across the dining room and finally it lands in front of you, a perfectly warm pita with a pile of sliced, moist meat on the top. Surrounded by that are sliced tomatoes, onions, feta cheese, and a side of creamy, homemade tzatziki sauce. You've ordered a gyro and you can hardly wait for the plate to be put down before you dive into this delicious dish.
Gyros are intimidating. They're something that many people don't believe can be made at home and, if attempted, it's often something that was once quite time-consuming. However, that isn't the case anymore. Making gyro meat can be as simple as allowing a stand mixer to do the work for you or, in cases where you really want to be thorough, a food processor. There are plenty of tips and tricks to making gyros at home taste just as good as they do at your favorite restaurant... no vertical spit-roaster required.
It's All About The Texture And Protein
When it comes to gyros, it's the texture of the meat more than the flavor that makes these Greek sandwiches what they are. While a warm pita and fresh tzatziki sauce will take the dish quite a ways, it's the meat that serves as the centerpiece with everything else serving to highlight it. So, let's start with the meat!
The easiest part about all of this is the ingredients. Red onion, garlic, and traditional Greek spices (rosemary, oregano, marjoram, salt, and pepper, two teaspoons each) are the flavor base. These are what will be mixed with the gyro meat which is a combination of ground pork and ground beef (one pound of each). According to the recipe by Two Sleevers, this is as simple as it gets. The next part is where the magic happens and where things get exponentially fun because it all starts to make sense. In order to achieve that true, sliced gyro texture, it's important to add all of the ingredients to anything that will mix them pretty aggressively - this could be a hand mixer, stand mixer, or, to ensure uniformity throughout, a food processor. In this case, there's really no such thing as overmixing because the goal is to break down the meat enough that it starts to feel sticky - this means that the proteins are being mixed thoroughly and that the water and fat contents in the meat are beginning to blend together.
When it's all said and done, this will create a mixture that looks mashed rather than just mixed - think meatloaf vs. pureed meat. When this texture is achieved, pile all the meat into a loaf pan, aluminum, glass, or metal is perfectly fine, and bake for an hour at 350-degrees Fahrenheit. When it's done, simply drain all of the grease (there will probably be plenty) and then take the loaf out of the pan, and press it with a heavy cast-iron pan, soup cans, or anything else that will weigh down the meat in order to get that dense texture. After roughly 30 minutes of weighted resting, slice it thin and, voila, gyro meat!
The Sauce And Toppings
No gyro is complete without traditional Greek toppings and these are also quite fun to assemble. Sliced tomatoes and onions are an absolute must when making gyros and yellow onions add a great, mild flavor to the whole dish. On-the-vine tomatoes are also great for this or take this as a chance to visit your local farmer's market for some juicy heirlooms. Things such as kalamata olives are optional but feta should also be on the gyro platter - it adds much-needed saltiness and a tangy bite, and can be found so easily nowadays.
Now, the tzatziki sauce. This tangy, creamy sauce is far easier to make than many people even realize since it starts with a base of good Greek yogurt. To that, grated cucumbers (do this carefully on a box grater) should be squeezed of their water content and then added, along with a few squeezes of fresh lemon and some garlic powder to taste. Simply finish with salt and pepper, and you've got a restaurant-quality sauce that's tasty, fresh, and healthy. Alternative toppings for gyros also include things such as hummus and tahini, both of which can be made from scratch but it's easier to use store-bought. Happy gyro-making!