Homemade Lamb and Beef Gyros (Sous Vide and Rotisserie)

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Happy Tuesday!

Are you over turkey and leftovers? I am! I love Thanksgiving, but I get bored and want to go for something international immediately after. My husband and I love Greek food, so it came to me that I wanted to make my stuffed grape leaves. But that’s not all. I wanted a gyro in the worst way, too.

Recently, I acquired a Ronco Rotisserie. Do you remember the commercial from the 1990s-2000s? “Set It and Forget It!” Best slogan ever. My problem? I have an obsession with watching it go round and round! One of my best friends told me that I ironically “stalk my food.” I can’t help it–it’s truly mesmerizing. I made rotisserie chicken two weeks ago, and I contemplated even doing my turkey in it for oven space purposes. So you can say I have a bit of an infatuation.

For all of you who know me personally, you know I am also a huge Sous Vide fan. It’s the best for proteins, and the low and slow water bath makes the meat extra juicy. So I had to use my Anova as I do for all my meat cooking.

I decided to grind my meat, blend in a food processor into a paste (it sounds gross, but trust me, it needs to bind!), sous vided for two hours, and then I seared it for about 30 minutes in my rotisserie. Last final step? I carved the meat into thin slices into a sizzling hot cast iron pan for a little extra crispy edge. Absolute perfection.

The homemade Tzakiki sauce came together in a snap too. It’s creamy and indulgent and totally makes this classic Greek dish complete.

My husband said this is a “Top 5” meal–10/10. He isn’t wrong. It is perfect. Enjoy! 🙂

Ingredients for the Lamb and Beef Gyro Meat

  • 1.3-1.5 pounds of Ground Beef
  • 1 pound of Ground Lamb
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Garlic Powder
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Salt
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Dried Oregano
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Black Pepper
  • 1 small White/Yellow Onion (I used yellow)
  • 1 fresh garlic clove

Ingredients for the Tzatziki Sauce

  • 2 cups of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 2-3 tablespoons of garlic powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 small lemon, squeezed
  • 3 teaspoons of dried dill
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Other Ingredients

White Pita Rounds (4-6)

Vegetable Toppings (Lettuce, Tomato, Red/White Onion–your choice!)

  • **Feel free to make the pita rounds too, but the store bought ones, if heated up properly, taste great!) This recipe serves 4-6, so you would need at least 4-6 pita rounds.
  • ***You may also add in any vegetable you want. Some people like sliced onions, most people like tomato. I sliced up only a few small grape tomatoes for mine as lettuce has a bad reputation as of late (thanks Romaine outbreak!)

Special Equipment

  • 8-10 cup Food Processor (I have a Cuisinart 8 Cup)
  • Sous Vide (Immersion Circulator)–I have an Anova; Joule works well, too!
  • Rotisserie Machine (**optional, but it’s what I used. You can also simply broil the outside and rotate in the oven if need be.) <–P.S: I bought my rotisserie for $20 on Facebook Marketplace, so fear not!
  • Cast Iron Pan (Somewhat optional–this is for the extra searing at the end. I guess you could use another pan, but cast iron is highly recommended!)

Directions to the Pantheon of Street Food (How To Make the Gyro Meat)

  1. First, take out your food processor. Pulse until finely diced your onion and garlic clove.
  2. Next, add the ground meats (lamb and beef), salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano.
  3. Grind the meat mixture into its a paste (it looks gross, but trust me, it’s divine). If you find it’s not all evenly getting mixed, stop the machine and use a spatula to push down the meat to make sure everything is ground evenly.
  4. Once it’s a “meat paste,” dump onto a piece of parchment paper.
  5. Next, transfer it to a large piece of plastic wrap. If you need another piece of plastic wrap, that’s fine! You are using the plastic wrap to mold the meat into a round log.
  6. Once you have rolled the meat into a log, portion out a large enough bag with your vacuum sealer. I have a Food Saver. **Make sure you remove the plastic wrap when the “log” is inside the vacuum-sealable plastic bag.**
  7. Once you have the meat sealed, you are ready to heat up your water!
  8. Get a large pot/sous vide container of water big enough to cover your meat. Fill the water between the minimum and maximum water lines that are listed on your circulator.
  9. Preheat your Sous Vide (Anova, Joule) machine to 150 degrees F. Once your water is heated up to temperature, put the meat log (is there a nice way of saying this?) into the water, and set a timer for two hours.
  10. As your Sous Vide is heating up/cooking your meat, go make your sauce!

Note: If you don’t have a Sous Vide, you can try putting the meat into a loaf shape on a sheet pan and put it in the oven at 325-350 like you would a meatloaf, but I have never tried it this way. Plus, if you don’t have a Sous Vide, I am not sure what you are waiting for. It’s the best! It’s worth the $100 investment!

Making your Tzatziki Sauce

  1. Scoop out two cups of plain Greek yogurt into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  2. Peel your cucumber and then Microplane/grate your cucumber (not too finely nor too thick) into the yogurt.
  3. Next, slice open half a lemon. Squeeze the lemon into your yogurt mixture (make sure there are no seeds!)
  4. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried dill to your yogurt mixture.
  5. Stir all ingredients and taste. Add more salt and pepper as needed.
  6. When you’re satisfied, leave the mixture out to homogenize. The flavors will improve as it sits.

Putting It All Together

  1. Once your meat has finished cooking in the Sous Vide, it’s time to get it nice and browned on the outside.
  2. If you have a rotisserie, put the meat onto the prongs and put it into the machine and set for 30 minutes. If you don’t have, you can try carefully broiling the meat, rotating to ensure even browning on all sides. Alternatively, you can sear the meat whole in a cast iron pan/dutch oven. Again, I used a rotisserie as most gyros you order out are “gyrated” (if you go to a Greek place, you’ll likely see the vertical Doner Kebab machines).
  3. Once the meat is browned evenly on all sides, let the meat rest.
  4. Heat up your cast iron (preferably) skillet to medium-high heat. Put about a tablespoon of olive oil on the pan, spinning the pita round in the pan to help coat the oil.
  5. You will first heat up your pitas on both sides. You want the pita to be a little browned, but soft and pliable. About 1-2 minutes per pita (30 seconds to a minute per side).
  6. Once the pitas are warmed, you should slice the meat very thinly and cook in the same pan. You want a golden brown texture. Flip the meat often not to overcook.
  7. Assembling the pita: On the warmed pita, apply about a tablespoon of Tzatziki sauce and spread all over the pita. Then add your “salad” toppings of choice. Add the hot, seared meat on top.
  8. Fold and eat. Enjoy. Devour. Your life just may change today. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves) with Tahini Sauce

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Happy Wednesday!

I went to a Greek restaurant with my mother-in-law a few weeks ago, and we had Dolmades, stuffed rice grape leaves, as an appetizer. I totally forgot about how much I love these little bundles of joy! A week later, I made them at home. It was a great rainy day project as it took about an hour and a half, but my husband and I have been eating them all week.

I love wine, so grapes and I are definitely good friends, but often the leaf of the grape is forgotten–it is a wonderful vessel for stuffing filling whether it be rice, ground beef/lamb, or an exciting combination of both!

They’re healthy, summery, and versatile. The ones I made have ground beef in them as well, but these are just as good simply with rice. You have the vegetarian/vegan flexibility with stuffed grape leaves. They’re paleo, low-carb, gluten-free, and all other hyphenated diet terms galore. These are good for you and taste good–often times, the both are not possible, but this is one fabulous exception.

Grape leaves are found abound in the Middle East/Mediterranean regions of the world. I’ve had the Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, and Palestinian versions, and they all have the slightest variant that makes the grape leave uniquely their own.

Greek Style (Dolmades, Dolmathakia): Lots of lemon, typically prepared with mint and dill

Turkish Style (Dolma, Sarma): Warmed spices (Currants, cinnamon, all spice) and a bit of sugar

Lebanese Style (Warak akish) : Usually lamb and/or ground beef, lemon juice, tomato paste/pomegranate molasses, some warm spices

Palestinian Style (Warak enab mehshi): Mainly Lebanese style with ghee (butter), sometimes parsley

**And I think Armenians do a stuffed cabbage roll similar to a grape leaf, so it’s an international delight!***

For my grape leaves, I went in the Greek direction with an Indian and Lebanese approach. I know Indians do not make grape leaves, but I decided to add Garam Masala to my sauteed onions to incorporate my version of the aforementioned “warmed spices”.

These are great to make for a party and/or picnic as a make-ahead dish. You can eat these cold, room temperature, or hot. Again, regional approaches vary here–I find that cold is popular among the Greeks and Turkish whereas the Lebanese and Palestinian people tend to serve them warm to hot. It’s totally up to you.

You can use fresh grape leaves if you can find them, but it’s just as easy to use jarred grape leaves. Fresh grape leaves must be boiled, and they must have the main stem removed–this is not edible! If your local grocery store does not carry grape leaves, I ordered mine online through Amazon.

Some people find the preservatives/brine off-putting, which makes some people not want to eat these. But if you properly rinse off each leaf before you roll it, it should take away most of the acidity. Besides, squeezing a lemon right before serving is the right tang it needs–not from sodium benzoate. The fresh lemon really brings it together, and if you make a Tahini sauce (or buy it from a reputable place, such as Trader Joe’s), you’ll get this delicious lemony and garlic combination that is perfect.

Ingredients

  • 7-8 cups of chicken broth (you may use water, but chicken broth will impart more flavor)
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • One 16-ounce jar fresh small grape leaves in brine (about 70 leaves)
  • 1 cup uncooked short-grain rice (I use Basmati–it’s the best!)
  • 1-2 medium-large onions, finely diced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pounds lean ground beef or lamb (or a mixture of both)
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped (you may add some mint, but I did not)
  • 1 tablespoon of Garam Masala (optional, but it was my own Indian twist)

Let’s get rollin’!

  1. Remove grape leaves out of the jar. Place all leaves in a colander and rinse/drain very well in warm water. In addition to draining off all the liquid, I individually wash off each leaf before I roll it. If you have leaves that are damaged or ripped, set those aside for layering on the bottom of the pot.
  2.  Sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent, not browned. Throw in the rice into the pan and toast the rice a bit. You are not cooking the rice–you are simply imparting flavor. The rice will cook inside the leaf, so you could also not saute the rice and simply mix it with the meat if you’re short on time, but go the extra mile. 🙂
  3. In a bowl, combine the onions, ground beef/lamb (if you’re using) rice, remaining olive oil, dill, juice of 1 lemon, and pepper. Mix well by hand.
  4. Once the filling is well incorporated, gently separate one leaf and place it shiny-side down on a work surface. Place a pinch (up to a teaspoon) of the filling on the leaf at the point where the stem joined the leaf. DO NOT OVERFILL YOUR LEAVES–THEY WILL EXPLODE!
  5. Roll the leaf like you would a cigar.  You are folding the mixture up and then folding in the sides, tucking them in. Fold up the bottom of the leaf over the filling, then each side inward in parallel folds, and roll up the leaf. The roll should be firm, not tight, as the filling will expand during cooking. Repeat until all the filling has been used.
  6. Repeat this about 70 times (I am not kidding–ask for help!)
  7. Layer the torn/damaged leaves until all are in the pot so that the bottom is covered. Place the rolled up grape leaves all along the bottom and stack them in alternate directions for the most support.
  8. Once you have all your leaves in the pot, place a plate on top to keep the leaves from floating.
  9. Add the chicken stock to the pot to cover the leaves. Add more or less as needed.
  10. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil, add the remaining juice from the 1 1/2 lemons, reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 50 to 70 minutes. Keep the lid on–otherwise, they will not properly steam.
  11. Check to see if done–if the rice has cooked, they are done. If not, continue cooking for another 10 minutes and check again.
  12. Enjoy while they are warm, leave out for room temperature, or refrigerate. My husband and I like them cold for a picnic. 🙂
  13. Serve with a fresh squeeze of a lemon slice, and dip into garlic tahini sauce (or hummus like sauce).

Garlic Tahini Sauce (If you want to make it versus buy it in the store)

Ingredients

 

  • 1 cup tahini sesame seed paste (I prefer the paste made from light colored seeds)
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water, or more for consistency
  • 3 cloves raw garlic (or 5 cloves roasted garlic for some sweetness–mmm!)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)

Directions

Combine above ingredients in blender or food processor, adding the liquid gradually to make a smooth consistency.