I’ve written about the gyro before. It’s a favorite food ’round these parts. Actually, I don’t know Chris’s position on the gyro. I’d ask him now but he’s cheerfully watching old Transformers cartoons as part of a reward for getting a pretty groundbreaking article published in a national medical journal. Yay Chris!! And it was about food (allergies, but whatever, it’s still about food), so that’s even cooler. But anyway it’s one of MY favorite foods, and I’m the one who buys groceries and makes dinner, so I’m pretty much the boss of everything.
I’ve got two distinct approaches to the gyro sandwich. The first is the Very Identifiable Meat gyro. This gyro consists of flank steak (sometimes ribeye if I’m feeling decadent), marinated in the typical Greek seasonings of lemon, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, and a smidgen of cinnamon. The steak hangs out, works the crowd, buys rounds of shots for the ladies, sings along to Journey…the usual. After around eight hours of merriment in a zipped plastic bag, when it’s clear that the steak will benefit no more from staying at the party (by this point he’s vomited in a houseplant and made untoward advances on someone’s mom), he’s pulled from the marinade, grilled to a nice mid-rare, and sliced on the bayou (bias). The taste is really fresh and has that light grilled flavor that really gets my heart and belly doing the two-step. I’ve made a fair dinkum of this type of gyro in my day.
The second type of gyro, something a bit more authentic in texture, is the Amalgamation of Meat gyro. It looks about as unappetizing as it sounds, but the truth is that it can pack a flavor punch right to the junk of the unwary diner. It’s usually a combination of ground beef and ground lamb, seasoned with all the same things as the Very Identifiable Meat gyro (minus the lemon), and processed together with grated and drained onions to make a sort of meat paste. Again, sounds repulsive. Then again, pork rilette has much the same consistency, and it’s a contender for my favorite food. Anyway, the paste gets packed into foil-lined mini-loaf pans, then into the oven at 375 F for a solid hour or so. When it’s pulled, I put a second loaf tin nested inside each one, and then weigh it down with a cinderblock for another 30 minutes to compress the meat and squoosh out some of the effluvia. Once it’s cooled quite a bit, it gets sliced thinly and voila! Gyro meat! This meat is solidly good, especially if it’s salted enough during the paste-making process.
Nothing can kill a dish faster than inadequate salting, regardless of what the surgeon general is babbling on about. Note (and I’ve told you this before)—provided you have no underlying kidney issues, and providing you drink enough water to flush them out, a high-salt diet isn’t going to hurt you. What raises blood pressure is inadequate exercise, alcohol use, smoking, obesity…all things we’d be wise to avoid anyway. Nobody likes the overweight, sedentary, chain-smoking guy who drinks all the time. But people DO like the guy who salts his food correctly. Because that makes food DELICIOUS.
There is a Gyro Of The Future, which happens on a rotisserie. It’s the Gyro of the Future because I don’t have a rotisserie. Sad, I know. Amazon has the one I want—the Cuisinart vertical rotisserie—at 50% off right now, so if any of you have been so taken with my blog that you felt desirous of sending a stranger a Christmas gift… I think with a rotisserie I could do the slicey-peeley thing that they do at Renzio’s in the mall. That’s the kind of gyro I grew up on, and is fantastic eats. Something about the texture and moisture from the rotisserie gyros is very different from the Gyros of the Present. I know you can buy the strips that are pre-processed on a rotisserie and frozen, but I think those are semi-icky. I’m wary about meat-sourcing anyway, preferring fresh, local, and humanely raised meats. When they’re processed to the point where they aren’t identifiable as meat without biting into them first, that causes me to question their freshness and responsible ranching behavior. That’s why I’d rather go buy my meat from the farmers market or the WhoFo, then make my own.
With any and all gyros, there are some accompanying players. There’s the tzatziki sauce, a yogurt-based sauce that is the first cousin of the Indian raita. I never liked tzatziki sauce when I was growing up, since I thought for sure it was made of mayonnaise and/or sour cream, but then I saw Alton Brown episode on the gyro, found out it was yogurt-based, and then it was GAME ON. Now I can’t get enough of the stuff. My version has Greek yogurt, minced cucumber, minced garlic, chopped dill and mint, salt and pepper, and a squidge of lemon juice. Can’t be done in a blender or food processer because it liquefies the yogurt. My blender actually liquefies and then eats the yogurt itself, because it is a great, hulking behemoth of a blender, and frankly I’m too afraid of it to complain.
Then there’s the pita, which should be homemade. And the sidekicks of fresh shredded lettuce, kalamata olives, and cotija cheese. Sure, sure, they use feta over in Greece. But I don’t like feta, based on an early childhood dislike of the smell. And cotija is different, but similar in texture. It’s crumbly and salty and mild, and relatively easy to find here in the state that has more Mexican culture than Mexico itself. Dice up a fresh tomato and you’ve got the makings of a gyro platter sitting in front of you. A slightly less fatass approach would be to make a big salad, thinly sliced red onions mixed throughout, then top with all the aforementioned toppings except the pita. Pitas aren’t the worlds least caloric foods. It is a lean dough, though, so you can go to bed without feeling like you’ve flat-out betrayed your bathing suit.