I have a deep love for Greek food...
Don't ask me why...
Gyro night when I was growing up was always silly. My dad always made the most amazing Steak Gyros, and it was one of the few recipes he didn't allow us in the kitchen to watch him make.
In hindsight, it was likely because he knew he would get complaints as we watched him massacre beloved cucumbers and throw them into a bowl of yogurt as he made Tzatziki (to be honest, cucumbers had an almost holy status in our house growing up. We usually only got them in the summer when we had them in the garden or when they were super cheap at the store...we would have much rather eaten them doused in vinegar, salt and pepper than in a mixture with yogurt. When I figured out what was in Tzatziki when I was older, I figured he had the attitude of what we didn't know wouldn't kill us...)
After he died, there was a little whole left in my heart where my dad, Gyro night, and Greek food should have been.
For years I have tried to duplicate his recipe- always getting close, but not all the way there.
Tonight, I am proud to say, that I think I have duplicated at least his famous Tzatziki...of course, as our Gyros were chicken, I still have to work on the steak...but the chicken was delightful. The only thing I would change would probably be to add less oregano (its a personal taste thing...too much oregano and dishes start to taste dirty and bitter to me.)
You can try the recipe yourselves and do it as written or add more or less oregano- its up to you!
For the meat (its a traditional Greek Lemon Chicken BTW):
Cube uncooked chicken (its easiest to do this after its been in the freezer for about 15 minutes, or when its still frozen in the middle as you're waiting for it to thaw.)
In a cup mix:
2 TBS oil (olive oil or vegetable oil will work for this one- the oil is basically to make frying easier)
2 TBS lemon juice
1TBS dijon mustard (1 TBS mustard powder would work as well, I like Dijon because it gives a little kick)
2 cloves garlic minced
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano
1-2 tsp sugar
1 tsp apple cider or red wine vinegar (either will work- heck, try regular vinegar if that's all you have.)
(My rule of thumb with marinades is this: Adjust the sweet (sugar) to sour (vinegar) ratio until you have a mixture that you would use as a salad dressing. If I wouldn't eat it on its own, then I won't like it on my meat.)
Pour mixture over meat in a bag. Marinate 3 -24 hours, flipping back periodically to make sure that the marinade is evenly distributed.
Now you have two choices:
You can do what I did and put the chicken onto skewers and grill it on a grill pan or on your grill or you can spray a fry pan and pour the chicken mixture into it and fry the pieces. In both methods, you obviously want to cook the pieces until the juices run clear and there is no pink.
1 single serving portion of plain Greek yogurt or plain yogurt (8 oz/ 1 cup)
1 clove of garlic minced as fine as you can get it
1/2 medium cucumber or 1 large pickling cucumber, peeled and deseeded, then diced small
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp vinegar (this will be to taste. Start with 1/2 tsp and add the other 1/2 if you feel you need more of that punch that the vinegar gives)
1 1/2 TBS oil (again vegetable or olive oil will work)
1/4 tsp of dill (okay, traditionally this would be mint- I personally find mint to be too pungent. Dill is a nice cooling substitute with a not overpowering, pleasant taste)
milk to thin
take cucumber dices, toss them in 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper- allow that mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes before adding to the rest of the ingredients. This will seep some of the water out of the cucumbers and flavor them a bit, making your sauce less runny later on and more flavorful initially.
Mix the rest of the ingredients except for the remaining salt and pepper and the milk. Once the cucumbers have been added, add the salt and pepper to taste (meaning you may not need the rest of the 1/4 tsp of both) THEN thin the sauce using the milk. This way, if you manage to get it a little too salty, the milk will help to spread the salt flavor around and fix your boo boo!
For the Gyros:
Use a pita, put a bed of leafy greens (we used a spring mix), diced tomatoes (if ya dig 'em), chicken, and then Tzatziki (the less you use, the drier your Gyro will be...I almost wished I'd put more on mine, the Tzatziki was the bomb diggity!)
I wish my camera wasn't dead, because I would have taken pictures of the succulent deliciousness!
Hugs and deliciousness until next time!