I haven’t posted a recipe in a while so I thought I’d give the books a break today. Ya gotta eat. The first time I lived in Florida, I lived near a little city called Tarpon Springs. It started life as a Greek sponge diving village. Seems the sponges in Greece had some sort of blight and a large group of Greek sponge divers went to Tarpon Springs which was rich in sponges. Hey, I could relate. The potatoes had a blight and the Irish emigrated. Down by the sponge docks they have the best restaurants. I like all Greek food but I LOVE LOVE LOVE Gyros. Back to Ireland and there were two things I missed. Gyros and Pizza. Not easy to find in Ballaghaderreen at the time so I had to learn to make both.
The hardest to perfect was the TZATZIKI SAUCE. No internet at the time so no Google. I had to experiment and remember the taste. What I came up with was to peel one regular size cucumber (and by that I mean not the small pickling ones), split it lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds. Then I cut it in small chunks and ever so briefly put it through the mini food processor. Some people just dice it fine but I like my sauce smooth. You can’t over process it, and that is easy to do, because cucumbers have a very high water content. And even when I get it just right, I let it sit in a strainer to get as much water out as possible. Then I take a small onion and put through the processor. Once again don’t overdo. Mix the cucumber and onion into one cup of plain Greek yogurt along with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Then add garlic powder, dried dill (my husband prefers mint), salt and white pepper to taste. Put in covered container and into the fridge so the flavors all gel together nice. I usually make in the morning but at least a couple of hours ahead.
Next comes the BREAD. Don’t use a pocket pita. That is sooooo wrong. It is a softer, thicker flat bread. I happen to live near several very good ethnic markets that sell it but to make it, this is a good recipe.
- 3-4 cups flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 yeast packet
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3-4 Tbsp. butter melted
Heat the milk until warm to the touch (about 110 degrees F). Add in the sugar and yeast. Once the mixture is foamy, pour the mixture the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Mix well to combine. Continue adding flour gradually in small amounts, until a soft dough is formed that cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough by mixer until it is smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rest at room temperature, covered lightly with greased plastic wrap, for about 2 hours. After the dough has rested, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces, rounding each into a ball shape. Cover the pieces with a towel and let them rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and put a pizza stone in the bottom. Once the dough has rested, roll each piece into a circle about 6-8 inches wide. Lay the circle of dough on the hot pizza stone and spritz lightly with water. Close the oven and bake for 2-4 minutes, until it is lightly puffed and brown spots begin to appear on the top. Remove from the baking stone and place on a cooling rack. Brush lightly with melted butter. Stack each round on top of each other as it comes out of the oven. Cover with a towel and let cool completely. Warm slightly when ready to serve the gyros.
And now the most important part, the MEAT.
- 1 1/4 pound lean ground beef
- 1 1/4 pound lean ground lamb
- 1/4 cup oregano (dried but fresh smelling!)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 3/4 tablespoon ground pepper or more
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
To cook in the oven as a meatloaf, proceed as follows: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes then slice. Or if you are lucky enough to have a rotisserie: Form the meat mixture into a loaf shape and place on top of 2 overlapping pieces of plastic wrap that are at least 18 inches long. Roll the mixture in the plastic wrap tightly, making sure to remove any air pockets. Once the meat is completely rolled in the wrap, twist the ends of the plastic wrap until the surface of the wrap is tight. Store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to overnight, to allow the mixture to firm up. Preheat the grill to high. Place the meat onto the rotisserie skewer. Place a double-thick piece of aluminum foil folded into a tray directly under the meat to catch any drippings. Cook on high for 15 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium and continue to cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165 degrees F. Turn off the heat and allow to continue to spin for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees. Slice and serve on gyro bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes, and feta cheese. Wrap the individual gyros in foil just like you get them in a restaurant – an art form in itself.