I still remember my first gyros. I was in high school and had walked with a friend to a nearby fast-food restaurant for lunch. Once inside, I discovered a bustling restaurant with what looked like huge smooth meatloaves turning on vertical spits and a man with a long knife slicing thin strips of the browned meat into a half-moon-shaped pan. Following my friend’s lead, I took a risk and ordered a gyros without knowing what it was.
I opened the foil and waxed paper bundle containing my meal to discover warm pita bread cradling the seasoned meat, topped with tzatziki sauce, along with pieces of onion and tomato. I was hooked.
It wasn’t until last year, after learning to make homemade pita, that I got serious about trying to master making homemade gyros meat. I had not had great success in the past and ended up with more of a meatloaf texture, not the smooth, dense meat on the restaurant spit. Until I stumbled upon several recipes using a different technique than I had seen before — combining the meat and spices in a food processor and letting it whirl until the mixture becomes a fine paste.
You can make your own gyros with these recipes from Penny Kazmier.
– Courtesy of Penny Kazmier
At first, I was concerned I had let the meat process too much, but the pate-like mixture is precisely what is required to get the smooth and dense texture needed to mimic the restaurant version.
It was so simple, throw everything in the food processor, press it into a loaf pan and bake. The hardest part was waiting for the loaf to chill in the refrigerator, a step needed to get the thin slices we are all used to.
Fry the slices until they start to brown, and then build your sandwich with a warmed pita, tzatziki sauce, sliced onions and tomato.
If you are an overachiever like me, you may also want to try your hand at homemade pita bread, but be careful, as once you have had freshly baked pita, you may never buy a package in the store again.
I have included my favorite pita recipe, but store-bought is just fine. But if you have never worked with yeast before, this is a great recipe.
And, if you are making everything else, why not throw together some tzatziki sauce too? It is straightforward; grated cucumber, garlic, spices and some Greek yogurt, that’s it. I have tried different recipes and have included my favorite. I will also admit a preference for at least 2% Greek yogurt, with whole milk being decadent and nonfat seeming a little “chalky.” But feel free to use your favorite.
I have always enjoyed traditional in-person cooking classes, but I have given and taken several of the Zoom variety over the past couple of years. I wasn’t sure how I would like the online version but found using my own equipment and baking in my own oven satisfying, especially when I didn’t have the same tools as the instructor. For example, in one class, my pan was slightly smaller than the instructor’s, and I was able to ask her a question and receive immediate feedback about how to adjust my baking time. I found this much better than getting home and feeling like I needed to buy new pans to replicate a recipe I had made in a class.
So, from 9-11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 4, I invite you to join me for a Zoom cooking class where we will make all three of these recipes. For those of you who may only be interested in one or two of the recipes, that’s fine, too. You can cook along with me, or just grab a cup of coffee and watch, no pressure.
If you are interested, email me at DHCulinaryAdventures@gmail.com by Saturday, May 28, to register. I will send a detailed list of ingredients and equipment you will need to have on hand to make all three recipes and have gyros that night for dinner.
I am excited and looking forward to spending the morning with you. Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have.
For those of you who cannot join us, I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as my family does.
• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge. Contact Penny at DhCulinaryAdventures@gmail.com.