17 August 2009

Gyros with homemade pita and tzatziki

In the interest of spicing up our dinners a bit, I turned international and decided to try a little Greek for Sunday dinner. I found some recipes in my cookbook collection, but I was not entirely convinced that they would be worth the hassle, so I searched until I found what might actually be the most complex of the recipes I perused. Convinced that nothing could be that much trouble without being worth it, I forged ahead.

A few notes:
  • I marinated overnight—it was awesome. It may taste salty when sampled alone, but when paired with the vegetables, pita, and tzatziki, you'll be glad for the flavor punch.
  • Pitas should be quite thin and terribly even before you cook them. Mine were delicious, but didn't quite have that hollow puff that would have made them incredible. I recommend rings for your rolling pin or perhaps even a pasta roller on a thick (3-5) setting.
  • The tzatziki was incredible, so much so that I actually ate it plain as leftovers today.
  • I served with fresh tomato and mean to slice up some red onion—I wish I had as it would have been a great foil to the sweet tomatoes and creamy spread.
Pork Gyros
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin, shoulder, or fresh ham [I used loin]
  • white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp sea salt [I used coarse and longed for fine.]
  • 1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika [I used Hungarian and I think it was marvelous]
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp finely crushed (powdered) oregano
In a small bowl combine salt, paprika, pepper, and oregano.

Slice the meat against the grain as thinly as possible and pound with a meat mallet to less than 1/4-inch thick. In a flat-bottomed container, arrange one layer of slices, sprinkle liberally with seasoning mixture, then with a little vinegar. Spread the vinegar over the meat so that all pieces are moistened. Add layers, spices, and vinegar until all the meat has been marinated. Cover and refrigerate for 1/2 hour to 2 hours [or overnight like I did—so tender, so flavorful.]

Remove meat from the refrigerator and slice into strips about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch wide and 2 to 2 1/2 inches long. Dry fry (without any oil) in a non-stick frying pan until well browned and slightly crisp.

Alternate cooking methods: Do not cut the meat into strips before cooking. Cook thinly pounded pieces on the grill (or in a roasting pan in the oven) until the edges of the meat begin to crisp, then slice and serve.

adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen

I couldn't find Greek yogurt in this town, but I knew I could reproduce it by straining plain yogurt. Just find plain yogurt with no added gelatin (this might be harder than you think) and hang it in quadruple thickness cheesecloth and let the water drain off for an hour or two. Some nonfat plain yogurt has pectin in it—I'm not sure the effect this has, but I'd shy away if I were you as it may prevent separation of the water. I let mine drain too long (my 4 cups yogurt ended up less than 2 cups) but the consistency was amazing in the end.
  • 3 cups Greek Yogurt [or regular plain yogurt strained to desired consistency]
  • juice of 1 lemon (about 3T) [opt for fresh, please]
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced [no need to seed if using English]
  • ~1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh dill [I used almost twice that accidentally and don't regret it!]
  • salt and pepper to taste
If you don't have Greek yogurt, strain plain yogurt as described above. Peel cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise and take a small spoon and scrape out seeds. Discard seeds. (If you use the small seedless or European cucumbers with few seeds, you can skip this step.) Dice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 T salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out water. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel. [I squeeze my cucumbers in my fist, just a handful at a time to get the water out. It worked great!]

In food processor with steel blade, add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir this mixture into the yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed. Place in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving so flavors can blend. [This resting time is very important—I left mine overnight.]

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar or honey
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, room temperature or warmer
  • 2 tsp olive oil
If you are using active dry yeast, follow the instructions on the packet to active it (see the note on yeast above). Otherwise, mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water [I didn't.]

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes (or until your hands get tired). Form dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning once to cover with oil. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough, then separate into 8 pieces [mine were huge, you might want to do more] and form each one into a ball, then cover with a towel and let rest 20 minutes to relax. Place baking stone or inverted cookie sheet on center rack and preheat the oven to 400˚ [I used 2 stones side by side to double my cooking surface.] After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn't necessary. [I did 4 minutes total because they were a little thick and I wanted to avoid any chance of doughiness.] They should be soft and warm, and should be eaten immediately.

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