You start with the king of all meats: pork. (But aren’t there chicken gyros, too, you say? Blasphemy, I say!) Then you stick the meat on a rotating skewer next to a heat source (visual appeal! And fire!). Then thin slices of the seasoned meat are shaved off and put into the fluffiest bread on earth, pita. Topped with creamy, garlicky tzatziki, crispy French fries, tomatoes, and onions, gyros definitely possess synergy amongst the ingredients.
The Makings of the Perfect Food
Individually, the ingredients are relatively simple and don’t seem like anything special, but combine them together and you’ve got the perfect mixture of contrasting flavors and textures.
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So how is this synergy created? It’s all about each individual ingredient being excellent.
- Meat: Perfectly seasoned, of course. We had some meats that were on both ends of the spectrum, either bland or over-salted. The meat should also not be dried out- a few of the places we went, you could tell the meat had been shaved off a while ago and had just been sitting on the tray below the skewer, losing fat and drying out.
- Pita: Fluffy and soft; not crispy or dry. Ola Pita in Heraklion made their own pita in-house, and it was some of the best we had in Greece.
- Tzatziki: The more garlic the better, and pile it on, please! My heart sank a little every time I watched someone plop down a quarter-sized dollop of tzatziki onto my gyro. Sometimes just plain yogurt is used instead of tzatziki, which is ok, but we greatly preferred the garlicky bite of tzatziki.
- Onions: A good handful of onion slices is essential to counteract the creaminess of the yogurt and the fattiness of the meat.
- Tomatoes: To lighten up the gyro and make you feel like it’s just a teensy bit healthy. Almost every gyro we tried had perfectly ripe and juicy tomatoes.
- French fries: These were pretty disappointing on most of the gyros that we tried. Usually from a bag that came out of the freezer, limp, and starchy, they generally added nothing positive to the gyro experience. Usually we just picked them off and ate them separately, if at all. The fries at Ola Pita, however, were above average. They were fried to crisp perfection, and came sprinkled with oregano on top.
When recreating gyros at home, the biggest challenge will obviously be replicating the way the meat is prepared. This could possibly involve buying an electric vertical rotisserie and tinkering with it so that it’s suitable as a gyro rotisserie. If Jeremy tells me that I can’t spend any money on this project, then I will likely resort to something like this recipe, which uses ground meat to make something akin to a meatloaf which is baked and thinly sliced. Then the slices are broiled to get nice and crispy. Obviously this technique results in a more American style gyro than a Greek style gyro, but it’s better than nothing, right?