Ah, gyros. I love, love, LOVE a gyro sandwich. And I love, love, love saying it, too, as most of my loved ones have difficulty with this delicious word, described here by Wikipedia:
A gyro (…yeer-oh…) is a dish of meat roasted on a vertical spit, generally served as a sandwich, also called gyros, with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce, wrapped in pita bread.
To make gyros, pieces of meat are placed on a tall vertical spit, which turns in front of a source of heat, usually an electric broiler. If the meat is not fatty enough, strips of fat are added so that the roasting meat remains always moist and crispy. The rate of roasting can be adjusted by varying the strength of the heat and the distance between the heat and the meat, allowing the cook to adjust to varying rates of consumption. The outside of the meat is sliced vertically in thin, crispy shavings when done. It is generally served in an oiled, lightly grilled piece of pita, rolled up with various salads and sauces. The pita and gyro themselves are the only obligatory ingredients.
In English, it’s easy enough to say — like “hero” but with “year” sound instead of a “hear” sound. 🙂 (Go on, take 240 seconds out of your life and relive the utter joy and inspiration that is “Footloose” and Bonnie Tyler’s music — you know you want to!)
The first time I recall eating a gyro was when I was living in the Lawton, OK area, so I was either in my teens or my 20s. And my fondest memory of eating a gyro is on a Parisian street, walking with my beloved on one arm and a delicious gyro topped with crispy, hot fries and mayonnaise. (Yes, mayonnaise with fries sounds utterly disgusting to me, too, but trust me, in Paris, on a sunny afternoon in early May, walking hand in hand with your love in a park, it works. 😉 )
Here in East Texas, though, I’m unaware of any Greek festivals with delicious food, and the nearest place I know to get a gyro is a restaurant in Sulphur Springs over 30 miles (48 km) away — over 60 miles (96 km) round trip…and I really don’t feel up for a driving that far in the heat for a gyro.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about the deliciousness that is a gyro…and how the marinade and sauce for my chicken shish kabobs makes me think of the delicious tzatziki sauce that’s in a good gyro…and how I’ve never, ever tried to make a gyro before…and so the challenge to do so sprung up in my mind.
The first obstacle, of course, is that gyros are so often made of lamb. And regardless of the kind of meat, it’s traditionally cooked on a vertical spit. Lamb is expensive here, I’m inexperienced in cooking it, and I don’t have a vertical spit.
But my friend suggested that I could use beef, seasoned with Adobo seasoning, as a substitute.
Hmmm. Beef, I can get. And I was fairly certain I could find Adobo seasoning, even though it would mean a trip to Tyler to find it (but I had to go to Tyler anyway for other errands, so that was okay).
So, I started Googling recipes, and in my search, I came across some intriguing recipes, including some that would use pork loin roasts. And thanks to a good sale at Brookshire’s, I had a pork loin roast already in my freezer.
The recipe (you can find it here) I found at Food.com calls for slow baking the pork loin in the oven at 300F for four hours or so. I decided to keep the kitchen even cooler — and make the meal that much easier (remember my KISS philosophy!)– by cooking it in the CrockPot. I mixed up the marinade on Friday night in a CrockPot liner, plunked the boneless pork loin roast in it, turned it about a few times that evening, and then pulled it out from the ‘fridge on Saturday morning and plugged in the CrockPot. To fake out the tzatziki sauce (given the poor experience I had with my thus far sole attempt to make raita, I am currently leery of trying to make true tzatziki), I decided to make the marinade/dipping sauce for my chicken shish kabobs and include thinly sliced cucumber as well as sliced tomato in the gyros.
See, look at that picture on the right — doesn’t it make your mouth water? 🙂 Pita bread spread with yogurt sauce, lined with some sliced tomato, filled with deliciously seasoned pork loin and sliced onion browned to perfection in a non-stick skillet, with some thinly sliced cucumber slid in to finish it off.
Although French fries are a traditional accompaniment to gyros, we opted to help keep things cool by enjoying this with vinegar and oil potato salad, instead.
Authentic? No. But yummy? Absolutely!! You’ll be drinking ouzo and air-playing a bouzouki while you dance in your kitchen! (Go on, give it a try — it’s fun!!)
For the meat:
- 2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
- 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons Adobo seasoning
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I used reduced sodium soy sauce)
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves or minced garlic
- 1 medium onion, sliced
For the “tzatziki”:
- 1 cup Greek-style plain yogurt (I used fat-free yogurt)
- 1 package Italian salad dressing mix (or Garlic and Herb, or Zesty Italian — whatever vinegar and oil salad dressing seasoning mix grabs your fancy)
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
For the gyros:
- Pita bread or pita pockets
- Thin cucumber slices
- Sliced tomato
- For the meat: Mix together all ingredients EXCEPT the boneless pork loin and the sliced onion. Marinate the pork loin, turning occasionally, for at least two hours, or overnight. (I mixed the marinade together in a CrockPot liner, placed the liner in the CrockPot, the pork loin into the CrockPot, and put the CrockPot in the ‘fridge.)
- Add sliced onion. Cook on low until meat reaches an internal temperature of 170F — about 4 to 6 hours.
- Meanwhile, mix together all ingredients for the “tzatziki” sauce. Let rest in refrigerator for at least an hour (or more!) for flavors to meld.
- Remove meat from CrockPot, reserving cooking liquid and onion. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Pour remaining juices and onion over meat. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
To make gyros:
- In a non-stick skillet, remove desired amount of meat and onion from liquid and brown in skillet over medium to medium-high heat WITHOUT adding any oil or cooking spray.
- Heat pita bread or pita pocket (I steamed ours in the microwave).
- Spread/spoon the “tzatziki” sauce inside the pita. Place some sliced tomato along one side of the pita.
- Fill with desired amount of browned pork and onion. (Add in some freshly sliced onion, too, if desired.)
- Complete sandwich with some thinly sliced cucumber.