09/29/16
Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Gyros vs. Schawarma

My old pal Megan, freshly returned from a recent European jaunt, asks:

“Two things, on searching for shawarma here in Portland, I found a restaurant that sold shawarma but in parentheses labeled it gyros. Are they the same thing? And do you know where I can get some good shawarma?”

(BTW – your timing is perfect, Megan, as we’ve just posted not one, but TWO gyros recipes:

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas, and Easy Skillet Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Meg,

Both were derived in the 18th or 19th century from the Turkish Doner Kebab. Doner (rotating) and Kebab (grilled meat.)

When it was introduced to Greece, they named it “gyros,” Greek for “turn.” When it arrived in the Middle East, it was translated into the Arabic word for turning, “shawarma.”

In Greece the meat is typically pork, lamb, or beef, while the Middle Eastern version, not surprisingly, is never pork, but can be lamb, beef or chicken. In America, the meat is often a combination of beef & lamb.

The three major differences:

1. The Flavors

Gyros will have a more “Mediterranean” selection of herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary), while shawarma, not surprisingly, leans towards the “middle eastern” spice wheel (cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seed, turmeric.)

Either may have cumin, or pepper, and they’ll both will certainly have garlic.

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 2. The Meat

Besides the spices, is the form of meat. The meat for a gyro is a ground blend, usually some combination of lamb and beef, formed into a loaf before roasted on a spit. The shawarma meat cone is made from packed-down slices of marinated meat—often chicken, sometimes lamb, and occasionally even goat.

3. Toppings

Lastly, gyros are typically topped with onion, tomato, and tzatziki—a cold sauce made of strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil. Schawarma, on the other hand, has a more diverse salad-bar,including tahini, tabbouleh, fattoush, cucumber, and hummus…but no tzatziki.

I love them both!

As for my favorite spot, that’s easy, my #1 for all Middle Eastern foods is Wilsonville’s Dar Essalam Moroccan Restaurant. (The apricot lamb-shank tagine is to die for, as well!)

Chef Perry
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09/27/16
Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

As a follow up to last week’s recipe, “Easy Skillet Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce“, I’ve continued my ground lamb experiments, and may have found a recipe that’s even easier, and that I like even better!

This one has a slightly lighter  bread-to-filling ratio, using Mexican style gorditas* as opposed to the thicker traditional flat bread.

The ground lamb is prepared more simply, more like the “American-style” ground beef taco filling, but with that amazing gyro flavor.

Here you go…

Chef Perry
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*A gordita (“chubby” in Spanish) is typically a thick tortilla, baked on a comal. Gorditas de migas, one of my top five favorite foods, is a version in which fried pork is mixed with the dough. BTW –  what Taco Bell offers as a “gordita” is more akin to a flatbread than any type of tortilla. Making it, ironically, more of a “Greek Taco”. 😉

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas ~ Serves 4

1/2 med sweet onion, finely chopped
1 lb ground lamb
Olive oil
1 Tbs finely minced garlic
1 Tbs dried marjoram
1 Tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tbs fine sea salt
2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)

Toppings:
8 thick slices of a large tomato
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
4 large gorditas, warmed

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Prep your toppings and chill, covered.

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

In a lightly oiled non-stick skillet, fry the gorditas over medium heat until golden spots appear (20-30 seconds per side). Set aside and keep warm.

Add a small amount of oil to the pan, and let heat up. Add sweet onion, garlic, herbs and spices and saute, stirring often, until onions start to soften.

Add the ground meat in chunks, stirring and chopping until cooked and well mixed with the seasoning. Allow to rest five minutes, then drain of any additional grease.


 

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Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Assemble: Sprinkle gordita with feta cheese, then a couple of spoonfuls of ground lamb, top with tomato slices and red onion. Spoon tzatziki over all.

Chef’s note: I like to add a sprinkle of celery salt, just before serving.

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Tzatziki:
8 ounces plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoons red wine vinegar
6 mint leaves, finely minced

Place the chopped cucumber in a towel and squeeze to remove excess liquid; discard liquid.

Homemade Tzatziki Recipe

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint.

Homemade Tzatziki Recipe

Tzatziki will stay good in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to a week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

 

09/21/16
Easy Skillet Gyros

Easy Skillet Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Easy skillet gyros

A gyro (Greek: γύρος, gyros, literally ‘turn’) is made of meat cooked on a large vertical rotisserie, typically the meat is pork, chicken, beef, veal, lamb or mutton, and usually served wrapped in a flatbread such as pita, with cucumber, tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce.

Middle Eastern shawarma, Mexican tacos al pastor, and Greek gyros are all derived from the Turkish döner kebab, which was invented in Bursa in the 19th century by a cook named Hadji Iskender.

Now, I love gyros (and tacos al pastor, and schwarma, too, come to think of it), but here’s the thing…

vertical gyros rotisserieI don’t know about you, but I don’t happen to have a “large vertical rotisserie” laying around my kitchen (yet), the need to cook meat for 100 people each time I want a sandwich, nor am I ready to shell out seven hundred bucks, just to feed my occasional turning meat jones.

So what’s a cash-poor chef with a big hunk of ground lamb to do? He improvises, baby!

Now, I have grilled many, many thousands of burgers, thick and thin, over the fire, or in the pan, and while I’m the first to admit it’s not exactly the same, but for ease of preparation, flexibility in servings, and simplicity of gear needed…these are pretty freakin’ good.

I skillet-cooked this batch, but I’m very optimistic at the prospect of repeating this recipe over live fire.

Enjoy!

Chef Perry
joinmykitchen.com

Easy skillet gyros
Easy Skillet Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce  
Serves 4
The Meat:
1/2 med sweet onion, finely chopped
1 lb ground lamb
1 Tbs finely minced garlic
1 Tbs dried marjoram
1 Tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tbs fine sea salt
2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)

The Tzatziki:
8 ounces plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoons red wine vinegar
6 mint leaves, finely minced

The Toppings:
8 thick slices of a large tomato
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
4 whole wheat flat breads, warmed
1 fresh lemon, quartered

Prep your toppings and chill, covered.

Easy skillet gyros
Finely chop your onion, then combine in a bowl with the lamb, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and mix by hand until evenly combined. process until it is a fine paste.

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Easy Skillet Gyros
Form into 4 even balls, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place meat in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Bring a dry skillet to medium high heat. Press each meatball between two layers of butcher paper until 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

Easy way to make gyros
Fry each lamb patty (I’ve found it’s easiest to leave the top layer of paper on until it’s in the pan, as the heat will make it easier to peel the meat off of it) quickly, 1-2 minutes per side. Again, this step can be done over the direct heat of a hot grill as well, and might taste even better!

Easy Skillet Gyros
Stack the patties as they finish cooking, and keep in a warm over (150F) until done.

Easy Skillet Gyros

Slice and serve on flat bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes, feta cheese, and a spritz of lemon juice.

Oh, and while not part of any traditional gyro recipe I could find, I like to sprinkle the tomatoes with a little more black pepper and a little celery salt, before wrappin’ it up.

Easy Skillet Gyros

Easy Tzatziki Sauce
Tzatziki Sauce:

Place the chopped cucumber in a towel and squeeze to remove excess liquid; discard liquid.

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve on gyros.

Easy Tzatziki Sauce
Tzatziki will stay good in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to a week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

09/20/16
IMG_2177 (1024x658)

Making soup…Samurai style

Perfect chicken soup recipe

Okay, first things first, a couple of statements to divert the inevitable snarky, know-it-all, blog-nazi  comments…

I know that “Asian” is a common generality, which is typically a bad thing in most subjects and even more so when plastered over the subject of cuisine…

I know that “Samurai” (or more correctly “Bushi”) were specifically the military nobility and officer caste of medieval and early-modern Japan, and not any of the other countries I reference…

I know that these two words are then, obviously, a contradiction in terms…

HOWEVER…that said, ‎I like alliteration, it’s my blog, and it makes for a snappy post title, so I’m going with it. 😉

Okay…done with that.

The reason for this post, and recipe, is that after much happy experimentation, I am of the not-so-humble opinion, that “Asian” cultures are the gods of broth and stock-based soups (cream soups and bisques, stews and chowders, I might give the nod to France, but this ain’t that post…)

That said, what makes the soups of Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, etc., etc., so amazing is more about technique than ingredients…though they certainly have some amazing ingredients…the most basic difference between how “they” make soup, and how “we” make soup, is technique, most importantly the technique of prepping each individual ingredient separately for optimum taste, instead of simply tossing them in a pot (or, God-forbid, a slow cooker) to become a one-note burbling homogeneous cauldron of meh.

Example: If you’ve ever seem a properly prepared bowl of pho being made, and you really should, it’s amazing…you’ll note that the bowl is first loaded with cold cooked noodles, cold cooked meat, and raw veggies, then, filled with boiling-hot stock, to bring everything to a balanced temp.

This allows each ingredient to maintain its own specific flavor and  uniqueness, but still maintain the crunchy texture of the veggies, the perfect texture of the meat (brisket and tendon, please) and the chewy elasticity of properly cooked noodles (this, btw, is the same reason that ramen is best when the noddles are cooked, cooled, and the dipped in hot stock at the last moment, on the way to the mouth).

So, I said to myself, “Self…what if I tried this classic style, this “cook first, then assemble” technique, of Asian-style soup cooking, with that most classic of Western soups, Chicken Vegetable. (The fact that my wife and daughter are sharing a horrific cold this week, didn’t hurt in the decision making process of the test subject, either…)

So, here we go! (Spoiler: it’s awesome…)

Chicken Vegetable Soup using “Asian” Techniques

For the stock:
Bones and skin of 1 rotisserie-roasted chicken
1 whole head of roasted garlic
1 cup roasted carrots, chopped
1 cup roasted celery, chopped
1 lemon, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped and packed
2 Tbs. fine sea salt
1 Tbs. ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. whole fennel seed

1/4 cup sweet cream butter

For the soup:
3 ears fresh sweet corn, cut from cob
2 cups carrot rounds
2 cups celery chunks
1/2 cup shallot, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 cups diced rotisserie chicken

The best Chicken Soup Recipe

Rotisserie Chicken (I prefer Costco)

Debone one whole rotisserie chicken, save bones for stock, and meat for soup.

Roasting veggies for chicken soup

Roast celery, carrots, and onions on at 450F oven until browned (but not burned).

Best chicken soup recipe

Combine chicken bones, skin, roasted garlic, ginger, parsley, lemon, fennel seeds, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Add roasted veggies, cold water to cover, and bring to a simmer.

Best chicken soup recipe

Dice carrots, celery, shallot, ginger, and set aside.

Best chicken soup recipe

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Cut fresh corn kernels from ears, set aside.

Chicken soup stock

Strain meat and veggies from stock, and whisk in butter.

Veggies for chicken soup recipe

Pan-sear diced carrots, celery, shallot, and ginger i a little stock, until just starting to soften. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.

The best chicken soup recipe

Assemble pulled chicken, sauteed veggies, and raw corn in a bowl.

Perfect chicken soup recipe

Ladle simmering broth over the top of the veggies, taste for salt and pepper, and top with fresh chopped Italian parsley.

Perfect chicken soup recipe

Optional additions: Rice noodles, soy sauce, Thai fish sauce, jalapeno slices, Sriachi sauce.

ENJOY!

Chef Perry