"Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?"
--from The Lamb by William
March is here. I really don't know if it came in like a lion or a lamb because our weather has been less than predictable (sunny/tornados/sunny/hail/sunny/light frost) but for sure, Spring is on its way. I can feel it. I can see it. The only way to celebrate is to get some lamb and do it up right. The availability of lamb this time of year heralds 3 things:
- the rising of Jesus Christ
- the rising of perennials
- the rising of hot cross buns on the kitchen counter or in the oven
YEER-oh. Not GY-roh. You get in trouble if you pronounce it the wrong way.
Sadly, I've never been to Greece. I've only gone by it in a boat on the way to Italy. We waved at the hills and crests of the coastline as we tipped back ouzo in celebration of the times we would have had on the island.
I've never made a gyro. I've only watched the guys at my favorite Greek restaurant slice it off the spit, slap it on a pita and hand it to me in a grease-coated wax paper cone. I've made souvlaki, baklava (with no pistachios or walnuts; roasted soy nuts are pretty good!), dolmades, moussaka, and gigantes beans...but no gyros.
The meat in a gyro is typically lamb, chicken or pork. A pita is warmed and tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, and lettuce accompany the latter. I really don't know the history or significance of the food, but I do know that it's like...Greek fast food. I had one in the south of Spain once that had harissa and a crazy cucumber relish on it.
The real crowning glory of a gyro is the tzatziki sauce. If you've got good sauce, then you've got good eats. It's a yogurt-cucumber sauce that is sometimes called a tarator sauce (tarator is more watery and is a soup, really).
Lamb Gyro Serves 2 or 3 (or one very hungry person)
*I hate those blends in the grocery, but I have this leftover from when my grandma used to cook in the kitchen.Alternatively you can use a mixture of thyme, oregano, and basil (fresh or dried).
Process the onion and garlic in a food processor until chopped finely. Turn out into the center of a clean kitchen towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice. Set aside 2 Tbsp of mixture for tzatziki sauce.
Return the mixture to the food processor and add the lamb, italian seasoning, rosemary, salt and pepper and process until it is a fine paste.
Whenever you are making a forcemeat like this, it behooves you to take a bit aside and cook it in a pan to taste test for seasonings. Do this now.
After proper seasoning, press mixture into the bottom of a loaf pan, pie plate, or oven-proof skillet. Cover with foil and place a heavy bottomed pot, brick, stone, or old dried-up beans (that you will never use) on the foil to weigh down the meat.
Ground lamb mixture pressed into the cast-iron skillet
Essentially, you will be pressing out most of the moisture from the lamb.
Place in oven for 20 minutes for medium/well-done.
If you like your meat varying degrees of doneness, cook it for less than 20 minutes. Twenty minutes is only a guideline, of course.
I sliced up my circle of lamb into strips to resemble to street gyros.
8 ounces Fage Total 0% Greek yogurt
1 medium English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
Reserved onion/garlic mixture
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
5 to 6 mint leaves, minced (or chiffonade for presentation purposes)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pulverized cucumber displayed on a tea towel (before the big squeeze)
In a bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, vinegar, and mint. Let chill until lamb is done. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.
A nice chiffonade of romaine lettuce. Very mediterranean.
Bad news: I was so hungry I didn't take a pic of my gyro before shoveling it in my mouth.
Good news: It was great! Next time I think I'll grind my own lamb to make the texture smoother. I hope I don't grind it so much that it becomes a mushy mess.
- Nikki @ NikSnacks
- I'm an award-winning private chef who writes and talks about my life as a food writer, culinarian, podcast host, and food tour guide, I'm a classical French trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami. I've worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger, catering chef, pastry chef, butcher, baker, and a biscuit-maker.