Gyros for a Crowd

Mediterranean Style

I’ve spent years making gyros the hard way: shopping for the lamb and beef, cutting it into cubes, grinding it to a paste and then — with varying levels of engineering success — trying to figure out a way to keep a 6-pound piece of meat paste on a rotisserie. Ah, the foolishness of youth. I came up with the following when I needed to bring something to a Mediterranean-themed party and didn’t have the time or patience to do battle with gravity. The result is every bit as delicious as the completely-from-scratch/rotisserie method and so simple you’ll almost feel guilty about how impressed everyone is.

GYROS RECIPE — Serves 20-30
4 pounds ground lamb
2 pounds ground beef (15% fat)
1 head of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons dried marjoram
3 tablespoons dried rosemary
2½ tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 large onions
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

The night before:
Place all the ingredients (except for the meat, onions and olive oil) in a food processor and process until everything is slightly damp and crumbly — the garlic should be minced, and the spices should be a coarse powder. Toss the spices with the ground meat, seal in a zip-top bag and place in the refrigerator.  

Without cleaning out the work bowl of the food processor, chop the onions until they’re a mushy paste.  Place onions in a dish towel, twist the top and squeeze very hard until as much of the water comes out as possible. Seal the ground onions in zip-top bag (you might want to double-bag them) and place in the refrigerator.

The next day:
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Toss meat, ground onions and olive oil in a bowl. Working in batches, grind the meat to form a paste (it will look over-processed). Return the meat paste mixture to the bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands until the 2 different meats are completely combined. 

Press the mixture firmly into an oiled 9-by-13 pan, taking care to remove any air pockets. Place the pan in a water bath and bake until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 to 170ºF, about an hour. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Allow to cool somewhat, and then slice the 9-by-13 piece of meat vertically into 3 equally-sized “bricks.” Dividing the meat in this way isn’t required, but it does make it easier to handle. Remove the bricks from the baking dish, throw them on a medium-high/high heat grill and grill quickly on each side until nicely browned.

Slice the bricks into thin slices and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped tomatoes, chopped romaine, pickled red onion and feta cheese. 

3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3 English cucumbers, peeled and seeded, with seeds reserved
8–12 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated or minced
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups full fat plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

You can either grate the cucumbers or use a food processor to finely chop them. Toss them with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and put them in a clean dishcloth or napkin to squeeze out the liquid, reserving some. There will be a lot of it. Put a little of the cucumber water and the cucumber seeds in a blender and blend until smooth. In a large bowl, combine the minced garlic with remaining 1 teaspoon salt, vinegar and olive oil. Add the grated cucumber to the bowl with the garlic mixture. Stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, white pepper and mint. Stir gently to combine, adding the cucumber water slurry until you have the texture you want.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving. 

Fresh red onion is a more traditional accompaniment with gyros, but there’s something about the tangy sweetness of the pickled onion against the richness of the lamb that just makes your mouth happy. Trust me.

2 red onions, very thinly sliced (I use a mandolin)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup white wine vinegar
4 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons sugar

Heat vinegars, salt and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer (about 1 minute). Stir until sugar and salt dissolve, then remove from heat. Place onions in a glass bowl and pour liquid over the top. Let sit on counter for 30 minutes to pickle and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.