Highchair Travelers: Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

gyro featured copyHigh up on our list of best-food-ever trips was our vacation in Greece a few years ago. When we got home, I applied myself diligently to learning how to recreate the amazing gyros we’d eaten almost every day in Corfu. After many trials (sigh, poor me) I found this recipe which is by far the closest I’ve found to the real thing.

Though the ingredients are important, the most crucial aspects of this recipe are in the techniques. Don’t be tempted to cheat. It’s worth it, I promise.

Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

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To make tzatziki sauce (start the day before):

Tzatziki sauce is the secret ingredient of Greek food. Good on everything from kabobs to pitas to salad to crackers, this yogurt-based sauce is amazingly delicious and easy to make. A few tricks will help you make your tzatziki sauce the best in the neighborhood.

2 cups plain Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large English cucumber (or 2 regular cucumbers, seeded), diced

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

freshly ground black pepper

First, start with good quality Greek Yogurt. (I personally recommend the Greek Gods organic brand, but use whatever you can find.) Now comes the trick. Using either layers of cheesecloth draped over a fine-mesh strainer or a cheese bag, pour out the yogurt and allow it to drain over a bowl for at least three hours. The whey will drain out leaving you with super-thick yogurt that looks more like ice cream.

drained yogurt

drained yogurt

Meanwhile, finely chop the cucumber. Spread evenly in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and sprinkle with 1 T salt. Place a bowl over the cucumbers and put something heavy in it. The idea is to force all the water out of the cucumbers–the salt and pressure will speed up the process considerably. Allow to drain at least one hour.

When the cucumbers and the yogurt are drained, combine in a large bowl with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for at least one hour, and it will be better if you leave it overnight.

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Gyro meat:

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground pork (or lamb, if you like it)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

3 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Place mixture on clean countertop and knead for several minutes, just like you were making bread. When thoroughly mixed, pick up the mixture and slam it down onto the counter, over and over. Continue slamming for 5 minutes (really! don’t cheat!) The point of all this is to break down the fats in the meat, creating a smooth uniform texture instead of a glorified meatloaf.

Form the meat into a flat loaf about 2 inches tall. I use waxed paper to do this more easily.

The meat "loaf" ready to cook.

The meat “loaf” ready to cook.

Bake at 350 degrees on a broiler pan (or a jellyroll pan with a raised edge–you are going to get a lot of grease dripping out) for about one hour. Or you can cook it on the grill, if you are careful to turn it repeatedly so one side doesn’t dry out.

IMG_4116When the loaf is done, let it cool for at least 10 minutes to seal in moisture and allow you to cut clean slices.

Slice the loaf width-wise into thin (1/2 inch or less) slices.

Lemmy enjoys his favorite meal.

Lemmy enjoys his favorite meal.

Serve on pita bread with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh dill, sliced red onion and tzatziki sauce.

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Καλή όρεξη!  Kalí óreksi!

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