Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mamma's Beef Gyros

I am very picky when it comes to eating out. And most times that stubborn attention to my gut instinct pays off and we find ourselves some fabulous grub. This last Christmas when we went holiday shopping, we found our famished selves exploring the food court there.
Now, mall food courts are not exactly the epitome of fine eating. Yet we come here again and again because of the layout here. This food court is planned out in such a way that it offers a wide variety of cuisines from all over the world. We have Japanese, Mexican, Indian, Italian, and American, to name a few. To add to that there are more varieties to American: specialty grill, subs and  Pacific Seafood.
It was here that I first had my first perfect Gyro.
Now don't get me wrong.... I have eaten plenty  Gyros, Falafels and Shawarmas as I am in love with the cuisine immensely, but most of the times, it was not a perfect experience.  Sometimes the meat resembled chewy flavorless diced kitchen sponge, sometimes the seasoning were not adequate or too much. One sad gyro I had at a Seattle event was chewy mystery meat wrapped inside a lukewarm pita, sprinkled with a few scant lettuce ribbons.And the falafels  that I had from another restaurant were nothing but deep-fried too-salty balls of dough, whose only saving grace was the few drops of tahini or tzatziki they are served with.
With these experiences under my belt,  I was not expecting anything dramatic when decided to go with Mediterranean fare again, to escape the heavily rice and cheese laden burritos or greasy, overloaded burgers.  But a huge surprise awaited me as I placed my order and watched the chef assemble my order, behind the glass half-wall of the bar.
The Pitas were toasted nicely in a grill until it got those lovely diagonal marks on them. Then they were loaded up with a hefty serving of cooked strips of lamb and beef. I could see tiny green flecks of herbs and crushed coarse pepper on them. It was topped off with another hefty serving of chopped salad, comprising of lettuce and greens and drizzled finally with a Greek yogurt sauce.
The first forkful of salad and a piece of meat was what you call a zingy, refreshing party in my mouth. The fresh aroma of citrus-y zest, parsley and freshly cracked pepper jolted me and clearly knocked me out of every jaded wall of my previous bad experiences.
The meat was very tender and had the distinctive taste and aroma that you get from well marinated lamb and beef. Now, the sauce really tied everything together, very well. Spices similar to the ones I tasted in the meat, were here too. The otherwise bland and thick Greek yogurt was beautifully thinned down and seasoned just right. I got the unmistakable taste of a good olive oil too.
When foods well-made like that crosses my path, I usually come home and recreate it. It took me a couple of tries, but here is my version. I am a fan of halal mutton which is sold a good hour's drive from my home, and since I didnt have it, omitted it. And I don't buy lamb. So I made them with beef twice and chicken once. Both are good choices and you can pick either. If you are making it with chicken, use boneless, skinless thighs and you will have succulent morsels that are moist, unlike chicken breasts.
So here you go...
This recipe yields 8 loaded pitas, one per person.

Clockwise from top left: Marinated meat, stir fried meat, Greek Yogurt sauce and Chopped Salad

For the Marinade

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 small bunch curly leaf parsley, chopped finely (divided)
Zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

2 tomatoes
1 head iceberg lettuce
2 English cucumbers, diced
Your choice of greens like spinach, kale or any store bought green mix

1 cup Greek Yogurt

1 large sweet onion, sliced
2 lbs lamb/ chicken thighs/beef--- thinly sliced into 1 inch strips (If you are grilling, marinate the steaks in the marinade, grill steak whole and then slice them into thin strips against the grain)
8 pocket-less pitas



1. In the Olive oil, whisk together the garlic, mint, oregano, lemon zest and half the chopped parsley together. Stir in salt and a hefty dose of pepper. Divide it into two parts: 1/3 and 2/3. Seal it with a wrap or lid and refrigerate it for 30 minutes, for the flavors to mingle.

Marination:-2. Meanwhile, lightly pound the beef  with a  meat hammer, to reduce the cooking time. Then throw in the meat and 2/3 of the marinade into a mixing bowl and marinate for half an hour, tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Chopped Salad:-3. Wash, dice the tomatoes and cucumbers, and roughly chop the lettuce. Rinse and drain the greens. Use a salad spinner or paper towels to get most of the water out. Keep aside.

4. Stir in the reserved 1/3 marinade into the yogurt and whisk well until fully incorporated. Check seasonings and adjust salt and pepper.

5. In a wok or grill pan,  stir fry/grill the meat along with the sliced sweet onions after shaking off the excess marinade. it will be done in very short time about 4-5 minutes. When the meat is cooked, toss in the remaining parsley, remove it and keep it warm . Toast the pitas.


Set a warm pita on a plate, then top the pita, add a portion of the cooked meat, then drizzle a little of the yogurt sauce, top with greens and chopped veggies, crack fresh pepper and salt on top and drizzle with a little more yogurt sauce for a second time.
And your Gyro is ready. Enjoy!!! 

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