I worked at one of those middle eastern restaurants for a while, one of those truly American places where the owner is Lebanese, everybody calls it Greek, and the food is a cultural mishmash, but none of that matters because it’s all really damn good. Especially the gyros.
The owner’s son confided in me that he and his brother had been stealing bites of the gyro meat since they were tall enough to get their grubby little fists into the hot storage bin. One would think, he said, that after fifteen years they would be sick of it. But their craving only grew. His theory? Cocaine.
I have some doubts as to his theory. But I don’t really know, because pretty much ALL of the gyro meat sold in the U.S. is manufactured by Kronos Foods and comes in a cone of finely preprocessed meat/spice mash, ready to pop on a vertical roaster and start spinnin’. I’m not against this. The stuff is delicious. But the fact that there’s no standard from-scratch process for Americanized gyro meat does make home assembly problematic.
I could buy gyro meat. Restaurants sell it by the pound. Sometimes it’s in the freezer section of the ritzier grocery stores. But it’s expensive! And who knows what’s in it?! This is Feral Cuisine, dammit! Where scratch is king, and the the king is a tightwad! Where my belief that ANY food CAN be easily, cheaply made from scratch pushes me far beyond the bounds of logic and common decency!
Speaking of decency, I found some recipes for homemade gyro meat that involve putting the raw meat and spices in your food processor and pulpifying it. 8 P Then you pack the meaty paste into loaf pans and carefully bake it in a water bath. Holy sh**. If I wanted that much trouble, I’d have a kid by now.
So I thought about food items similar to gyros that are really, really easy to make. And you know what other meal is a piece of flatbread, folded over meat and toppings? A taco. BOOM.
If I replace the taco’s Tex-Mex spices and accoutrement 1 with a more Middle-Eastern palette, I should get something that tastes at least passably like the gyro I know and love. The meat wouldn’t have that singularly fine crisped-hotdog texture, but for the sake of thriftiness, simplicity, and sanity, I thought I could forgo that. The rest was easy.
I fried up some ground beef and turkey 2 with garlic, oregano, thyme, and cumin. I whipped up a dead simple tzaziki with sour cream 3, lemon juice, grated cucumber, and some dried dill. I crumbled up some feta cheese. I took down the Sriracha reverently from its shelf. 4
Holy crap guys they were AWESOME! They weren’t like a gyro you get at the restaurant, they were a whole different beast, full of flavor combinations I had never experimented with at home. 5 They probably would have been even more righteous if I had sprung for some real pita bread, I know it’s not too hard to come by. But we were trying to use up some tortillas, and it was delicious. Hell, I could use this meal even if I was trying to trim some carbs; I’d just use Napa cabbage or butter lettuce for the bread.
Hear me, Kronos! I don’t need your ‘Gyro Meat Cone™!’ 6 I have the power and the knowledge to recreate the gyro myself, on my own time, on my own dime! No longer am I bound by your artificial constructs separating gyro from taco, chili from goulash, shepherd’s pie from lasagna! The food of the world is my playground, and I shall frolic in its abundance until I am sated!
-Josh is listening to Iggy Pop
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp rosemary
- 2 cups sour cream
- 1 cucumber, grated or finely diced
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 1 clove minced garlic
- tortillas, pita bread, or napa cabbage leaves
- feta cheese
- seriously, whatever you like on a gyro
- Add a glug of oil to a large skillet and put it on the stovetop on medium high.
- While the skillet is heating up, mix the ingredients for the tzatziki.
- Brown the beef, turkey, and onion in the skillet. When it's all cooked and browned and smelling good, add the garlic and spices, fry another thirty seconds, and take it off the heat.
- Make yourself some frikkin' gyros tacos!
- That’s french for ‘stuff that goes on a taco’. ↩
- Ground lamb would have been really tasty, but it’s so stupid expensive… ↩
- Greek yogurt is another expensive luxury item. Sour cream is cheap and works just as well. ↩
- Sriracha is not altogether traditional for gyros, but it is still very necessary. ↩
- A whole new world… ↩
- Although it is really tasty, and I will still probably eat it sometimes. ↩