What’s not to love about a Greek gyro, a sandwich of seasoned, marinated lamb, tomato, lettuce, and cucumber-yogurt tzatziki sauce stuffed inside a soft pita?
The traditional method for cooking the meat employs an electric vertical rotisserie on which layers of sliced and marinated leg of lamb are stacked. After cooking for hours, the meat is shaved with a long slicing knife, revealing pieces with crisp exteriors and moist interiors infused with garlic and oregano.
We wanted to translate this recipe for the home kitchen. Surprisingly, using ground lamb — which we formed into patties and grilled — was easy and came close to reproducing the texture of rotisserie lamb. A modified panade, or wet binder, of pita bread crumbs, lemon juice, and garlic gave our patties a sturdier structure and fuller, more savory flavor.
For a crisp outside and moist inside, we browned our patties on the grill until a crust formed on each side. Then we grilled the pitas as well to warm them and add a little smoky flavor. If using pocketless pitas, do not cut off the tops; instead, use a portion of a fifth pita to create crumbs.
LAMB PITA SANDWICHES
Start to finish: 40 minutes
4 (8-inch) pita breads
1/2 onion, chopped coarse
1 tablespoon minced fresh
oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground lamb
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive
1 cup Tzatziki (recipe follows)
1 large tomato, cored and sliced
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Cut top quarter off each pita bread. Tear quarters into 1-inch pieces. (You should have 3/4 cup pita pieces.) Lightly moisten 2 pita breads with water. Sandwich unmoistened pitas between moistened pitas and wrap stack tightly in lightly greased heavy-duty aluminum foil; set aside.
Process pita bread pieces, onion, oregano, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in food processor until smooth paste forms, about 30 seconds; transfer to large bowl. Add ground lamb and knead with your hands until thoroughly combined. Divide mixture into 12 equal portions. Shape each portion into ball, then gently flatten into round disk about 1/2 inch thick and 2-1/2 inches in diameter.
— For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter threequarters filled with charcoal (4 1/2 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
— For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium-high and turn off other burner(s).