September 1st is National Gyro Day, and the first thing you need to know is that gyro is pronounced YEE-ro, not JY-ro.
A gyro is a Greek lamb sandwich on pita bread, roasted on a vertical spit and served with tomato, onion, and tzatziki, a yogurt-cucumber sauce (recipe). Other condiments and sauces can be added or substituted.
Eating food off of pita bread or wrapping food in pita is an Ancient Greek tradition; the pita served as an edible plate. The tradition continues today—although you’ll also get a piece of foil or kitchen parchment to hold the pita from a street vendor, and a plate in a restaurant.
Most people eat gyros made by food vendors, but for National Pita Day, try making your own at home. The recipe below is adapted by one from Maria Benardis, award-winning author, chef and founder of Greekalicious, Sydney, Australia’s first exclusively Greek cooking school.
Traditionally, the deboned leg of lamb is grilled on on a rotating vertical spit (see photo below), and shaved off the leg in thin slices. In fact, the Turkish name for the same sandwich, döner kebab, literally means “rotating roast.”
But for Maria’s recipe you don’t need a spit: Roasting the lamb is just as delicious.
DO YOU NEED LAMB FOR A GYRO?
Of course not! Cuisine evolves constantly, and each cook can put his or her spin on a recipe. If you don’t like lamb, or don’t want to roast a whole leg, you can use any of the following:
Grilled or roasted beef, chicken or pork
Lamb sausage or other sausage variety
Grilled portobello mushrooms
Grilled fish fillet
Traditional condiments: lettuce, onion, tomato, tzatziki
Cilantro or parsley
Black olives (pitted), pickles, pepperoncini
Shredded red cabbage or yogurt-based slaw
Tahini sauce (recipe)
Gyros can contain any protein other than lamb lamb. Here, lamb sausage is the protein (any sausage works). Photo courtesy Kevin Eats.
RECIPE: FETA-CRUSTED LAMB GYROS WITH HERBED YOGURT SAUCE
This recipe is more layered than your typical gyro. A salty feta crust forms on the lamb with some heat from the red chili flakes. Instead of the standard tzatziki yogurt-cucumber-garlic-dill sauce, Maria makes a herbed yogurt sauce which eliminates the cucumber but adds basil, mint and parsley. (It’s also a delicious dip.)
Maria also adds the baby potatoes to the gyro, but we prefer to serve them on the side. You can replace them with an all-American side of fries.
8 pocketless whole wheat pita breads
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 large red onion thinly sliced
2 cups baby arugula, washed and patted dry
Ingredient For 8 Servings
2-pound leg of lamb, de-boned
Salt and freshly-cracked pepper
Extra olive oil for drizzling
16 bite size potatoes
For The Lamb