As a teenager in high school, I loved walking around county fairs, at night, at the end of every Summer. The memories are vivid: the lights on the ferris wheel, the music blaring from the bandstand, the smell of engine oil from the drag-race track, and, the oh-so-glorious food. My friends each had their favorite "fair food" (corn dogs, foot longs, Italian sausage, Belgian waffles, PA Dutch funnel cakes, etc.). Me? I headed like a heat-seeking missile straight to the vendor selling gyros -- notoriously overstuffed Greek lamb sandwiches. This was back in 1971, '72 and '73, and, this American-Greek invention hailing from New York City was the hot new trend.
A bit about the gyro (YEE-roh): I'm told that "gyro" is the #1 mispronounced food name -- I believe that because I was guilty for years. Food historians agree that the current sandwich we Americans eat is a spin-off of the ancient Turkish "Doner Kebab". A proper gyro is made from well-seasoned lamb (or beef) which is stacked and pressed into a conical shape on a large cylinder. The cylinder rotates vertically on a rotisserie and is slowly spit-roasted. It's an intriguing thing to watch. As the exterior meat cooks, the sandwich-maker shaves thin strips of it onto a super-hot grill before assembling the sandwiches.
A generous portion of meat is placed on a round, soft, flatbread (similar to, but thicker than, a pita) that has been slathered with tzatziki (dzah-DZEE-kee), a sauce made of strained Greek yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, pepper, EVOO, lemon juice, dill, mint or parsley. "Salad stuff", like lettuce, tomato and sometimes onion top it off and the entire thing is served as a wrap -- for the convenience of munching on it as you meander around. This elaborate process is one even I can't duplicate in my home kitchen, so, I invented my own spin-off!
These refreshing, flavor-packed roasted lamb pita sandwiches are the reason why I always cook two boneless lamb roasts. I refrigerate one entire roast, or the better part of one entire roast overnight, just so my family can enjoy these for lunch or dinner the next day, and let me tell you, they are one delicious, really easy-to-make meal.
Use your favorite recipe for roast lamb, or, click on on the Related Article link below to get my ~ Succulent Boneless Leg of Lamb w/Creamy au Jus ~ recipe.
I usually serve my sandwiches cold, carefully trimming, slicing and shaving the meat as free of fat and as thinly as possible. Occasionally I serve the sandwiches warm, thinly slicing the meat after it comes out of the oven and has been rested. They are delicious either way and I leave that choice up to you.
I serve my sandwiches on pita, which is the vessel that holds the traditional lamb, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, shaved red onion and crumbled feta. You can use any kind of pita you want, but I think whole-wheat complements the flavor of lamb really well. Even though authentic gyros are served on a thicker form of flatbread which is grilled and served as a wrap sandwich, for me in my kitchen, mine are more user-friendly and no one has ever complained.
You'll want to make my all-purpose Lemon-Mint Mayonnaise and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight prior to assembling the sandwiches, so, I'll show you how to do that first. I love this stuff!
As mentioned above, the traditional sauce for a gyro is tzatziki. I like it alot, but twenty years ago when I started cooking lamb for my family, my kids would not eat that sauce -- they hated yogurt. So, this is why and where my sandwiches take a small detour. I use mint in this recipe, because that is what I classically associate with lamb, but, feel free to substitute fresh dill.
For the lemon-mint mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade, or the best available (read my post for ~ How to: Make Homemade Mayonnaise ~, in Categories 8, 15 or 20)
1 large lemon, zested and juiced, about 2 tablespoons of zest and 2 tablespoons of juice
1 ounce coarsely-chopped, fresh mint leaves (no stems), about 1 lightly-packed cup
1 1/2 teaspoons Greek seasoning blend
1 teaspoon sugar
a generous 1/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder, sea salt and white pepper
Drumroll please: Here's what you'll need to assemble 6-8 sandwiches!
2-3 cups soft, "baby" or "Spring" lettuce mix, torn into small pieces
1 6-8-ounce red onion, halved and shaved (sliced as thinly as possible)
3/4-1 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4-1 cup diced grape tomatoes
6-8 soft, whole-wheat pita pockets, sliced in half to form 12-16 pieces (Note: Feel free to substitute plain pita, but I think the whole-wheat complements the flavor of lamb really well.)
all of the lemon-mint mayonnaise (recipe above)
2 1/2-3 pounds thinly-sliced and trimmed roasted lamb, about 3 ounces per sandwich half
freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for topping assembled sandwiches
One-at-a-time, open up each pita half & cup it in the palm of your hand.
Top with some crumbled feta and don't forget the diced tomatoes!
Special Equipment List: large spoon or spatula; microplane grater; cutting board; chef's knife
This super-flavorful soup recipe is no spin-off. It's the real-deal, right down to the Greek girlfriend who not only gave me her recipe, she taught me how to make it too. Just click into Category 2 to get this luscious, lemony recipe!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)