Friday, February 10, 2017

gyros redux

Some shots of today's gyros lunch:

Above: a wide shot of my first gyro, which I did the classic way (except for not including red onions). Below: a close-up, food-porny shot of the same sandwich. You can see that a lot is going on in the lovely tzatziki sauce.

By the way, I call bullshit on the people who say you have to squeeze the water out of the cucumbers before you add the cukes to your yogurt. That's only true if you plan on overloading your tzatziki with salt. I used barely a pinch of salt to accent the flavor and add a tiny bit of umami, which meant I could just dump the minced cukes in without fear of pickling (a process that draws a ton of water out of the flesh of a vegetable).

For my second sandwich, I decided to take things in a more döner kebab direction, which meant adding heat. So I added chili peppers and my fiery/smoky version of harissa. My asshole is going to have words with me later tonight. Wide shot:

And the porny closeup:

Let's talk ingredients.

I was disappointed in High Street's ground beef, which contained a fair amount of gristle (I found this out when I cooked a test batch of meat). Because I used my tiny food processor to grind the meat down into paste, batch by small batch, I think I managed to break up some of that gristle, which didn't plague me or my lunch companions. Next time, though, I'll be sticking to Costco ground beef, which is ground down finely to American standards. The meat that I prepped was a 50-50 combination of ground beef and lamb (plus some panko for body) that I seasoned with my usual combo of cumin, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and herbs like parsley and basil. The cumin is essential to take the meat partway out of the northern Mediterranean flavor profile and into the Middle Eastern flavor profile.

The feta cheese was a find, too: I need to remember the brand Kolios, which was stocked at High Street. That feta, unlike the Président-brand feta that I normally buy at Costco, had less of a sour/tangy edge: it smelled, tasted, and felt smoother and gentler, which makes me wonder what sort of milk the feta was made from. (Milk for feta can come from a variety of animals; sometimes, a mix of milk is used.)

The tzatziki sauce was a joy to make: you start with Greek yogurt and minced cucumber, then build up from there, adding olive oil, a bit of salt, some black pepper, a dash of cayenne, some garlic powder, some onion powder, and a splash of lemon juice to brighten the flavors. When you're done, the sauce really doesn't taste like much at all: it's light and fresh, but far from assertive. Despite that fact, tzatziki is essential for a good gyro because it weaves in and through all the other flavors, unifying them and creating an integrated taste experience. A gyro without tzatziki would be boring as hell. I did a non-traditional thing and added dill weed, which I always do when making my tzatziki. Dill is a magnificent complement to lamb, so I knew this wasn't a mistake.

The naan (I don't do pita*), which I also bought at High Street, was strange: it smelled just like a tortilla, and it looked a bit like one, too. At home, I pan-heated six pieces of flatbread for lunch on the assumption that we'd be eating two sandwiches each. I knew I'd be reheating the naan in our office's microwave, which meant that the bread would get weird because bread and microwaves generally don't mix (unless you're trying to reconstitute dry bread). Sure enough, the naan ended up hilariously chewy; I'm not a fan of that brand. It was edible, and my coworker ended up eating three sandwiches (my boss ate only one) despite the chewiness.

The tomatoes, olives, and lettuce were nothing special; they all did yeoman's work inside our sandwiches. The boss, who can be stingy with his praise of my food, declared everything delicious. My coworker described the feast as "amazing." That makes me a happy camper. Despite not being effusive with his praise, the boss has sometimes hinted that he'd like me to cater a party at his residence some day. At this point, I've brought twenty-three different dishes to the office since I began working here in 2015: anything to break the monotony of the quiet work we do.

And that, friends, is the story of today's gyros lunch.

*I don't know what sort of pita is used in US-based Greek fast-food joints, but whatever it is, it's not the typical pita sold in groceries. Grocery pita tends not to bend well; you're normally supposed to cut it open and use it to make pocket sandwiches instead of wraps, but at the Greek fast-food joints, what you get is a large, thick, flavorful pita that curls around the filling without cracking or tearing. I've found that store-bought naan simulates this texture better than grocery pita bread does, which is why I'm a faan of the naan.


Maven said...

I don't know if the concern about adding salt to the tzatziki is specific to the pickling the cucumber. My concern would be the water which would leech out of the cukes would then thin the tzatziki. I like a less-watery tzatziki, so I'd salt the cukes let them sit for an hour and then give a good rinse and pat dry before doing a fine mince and toss into the 'gurt.

Maven said...

In a pinch, lavash would do nicely for gyros, too. And naan work great if they are a bit more flat, imho, but totally serviceable.

While in India last month, my brother-in-law fetched me shawarma for dinner one night; however, what I got was not what I envision shawarma. What he brought back was akin to a chicken salad (chunks of chicken w/the yogurt tossed) and a handful of pitas on the side.

During this trip, the bil had become what I refer to now as a "Never-ending Font of Opinions," with one of his opinions dispensed being that I was eating my shawarma WRONG. I informed him, IN TURKEY where I've eaten shawarma, it is customary to open the pita and STUFF it.