Paleo Paradise: Homemade Gyro Meat

I spent time in Europe as a teenager, and one of my favorite street foods was a Turkish doner kabob, delicious roasted meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie spit. I have always been a fan of good Greek food, even though the gyro sandwich is multicultural (with its origins in the Eastern kabobs and shawarmas) and the style varies depending on where you are in the world. Americans traditionally make their gyro meat with a mix of beef and lamb, and this is an excellent Paleo lamb recipe.

There’s no need for a fancy rotisserie — just a loaf pan, a deeper, larger pan, a decent food processor and an oven.

I adapted this recipe from Alton Brown, but I doubled the spices.

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped or shredded
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Start with the onion. Grate it finely into a bowl and strain the liquid out. This is very important for keeping the gyro meat together later.

Pulse the grated onion in the food processor with the diced garlic and other spices. Once the spices have all been blended thoroughly and diced as small as possible, add the ground lamb. (If your grocer doesn’t have ground lamb on the shelf, ask the butcher to grind up a roast cut. Usually they are happy to do it, and freshly ground meat will make the gyros even better.)

Note: You might need to mix the meat and spices a small amount at a time, depending on how good your food processor is. Mine bit the dust after struggling to pulse the last bit of lamb into a meaty goo … RIP, food processor. The gyros were worth it. I regret nothing.

Pack the mixture into a loaf pan lined with foil (this increases the crispiness on the edges), and be sure to squeeze the meat mixture into the corners. Place the loaf pan in a larger pan halfway full of water (i.e., a water bath). Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 325 degrees, or until the internal temperature of the meat is 170.

Next, drain off any extra fat on top of the meat loaf, and place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and a foil-wrapped brick (or something else heavy, say, a cast-iron skillet or a fat cookbook) directly on the foil-covered meat. Let it rest that way for at least 20 minutes.

 

gyros recipe card

If you like, before using the meat in a sandwich, salad, breakfast dish, or main course, crisp the slices of meat in a hot skillet.

If you are cooking or eating Paleo, there are several delicious meals you can whip up in no time. I sauteéd sliced onions and sliced zucchini with a handful of frozen spinach, then added the sliced meat …

This simple stir-fry also doubled as a great to-go breakfast the next day with a couple of eggs …

Of course, you can also add plenty of cheese and homemade tzatziki (plain yogurt, diced cucumber, mint, oil and vinegar) if you’re not counting calories or eating Paleo.

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Maybe it’s because it’s Canadian? Eh?

I’ve always been a huge fan of carrot cake. It’s by far my favorite non-chocolate dessert. So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Carrot Cake Jam, I knew it must be love. And it was. It was all the best things about cooking. It was fun and simple to make, it was very pleasing to the eyes …

However, strangely (to me anyway), the recipe left out raisins. The second time I made this, I added raisins, as well as a little extra nutmeg and cinnamon.  If you eat it, slightly warmed — not heated, but just to take the chill off, on a bagel with cream cheese, it’s like a recreation of the carrot cake itself. Mmmm….

Adventures in marmalade

My family is Scottish and as such I feel it is somehow in my blood to enjoy and be good at making and cooking with marmalade. But after sampling a few different marmalades and making my own (courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa here) I discovered the unthinkable. I really don’t care for traditional marmalade. It’s too bitter and you can’t make a peanut butter sandwich with it. It’s lovely, and it’s easy to make, but I had my doubts.

I tried another batch, this time instead of navel oranges using fresh and local mandarin oranges (although they were very seedy and required lots of seed removal), as well as a large can of crushed pineapple. While still generally unusable for a sandwich, it works on toast, and is also insanely good as a base for a meat marinade. Here’s a nice steak marinated in a vinagrette with the orange/pineapple marmalade on the grill. The smell is fabulous.

Call me mint jelly, cause I’m on the lamb!

 

The lamb was tender and perfect … but I can’t take the credit. It was all Paula Deen’s recipe. However, it went fabulously with a jar of homemade mint jelly. This is a super-easy jelly recipe, basically boiling mint and sugar together with a few drops of green food coloring and pectin. The fresh mint in the marinade and the sweet juiciness of the lamb are heavenly …

Pepper Jelly, aka the first time EVER that something was not spicy enough.

One of the perils of a good jam, jelly or preserve is that you really can’t taste it without burning your face. By the time you can sample and possibly make any change to the taste, it’s already cooled and in cute little jars.

Jam Lesson #5:

Quit being such a p**sy and go for the spice.

Since I have never made (or really eaten, to my knowledge) any kind of pepper jelly, I figured I would follow the easiest recipe (calling for a red bell pepper, a green bell pepper, and 6 jalapenos with the seeds and ribs removed). It looked like it was going to be pretty mild, but I was unprepare for how sweet it was.

Anyway, it makes a lovely jelly, it is awesome spread on a tortilla before the hot carnitas and cotija cheese is added, and it was great mixed with soy sauce as a spring roll dip. I plan to make a spicier version … perhaps more than a couple of versions, I’d like to have a variety in my pantry, from wimpy to pants-on-fire.

And then there was … bacon. Bacon jam.

I felt triumphant. I had gone from being a jam virgin to making three relatively successful jams that people seemed to enjoy eating and hadn’t lost their eyesight or anything. I had some empty jars left over and was wondering what to attempt next when I came home to check my mail, just to find that Martha Stewart had dedicated a large section of the December 2010 issue of “Everyday Food” magazine.

Page 100. Slow-cooker bacon jam. What.

Martha, why do you mock me? I will make that bacon jam. Show you.

Jam lesson #4:

But it’s not jam.

Ok, I’ve had enough of your attitude. Just because it doesn’t have pectin and mounds of sugar? Just because it’s slow-cooked instead of forced to the rolling angry boil?

Well, I am no expert. It might not technically be jam. But people love to eat it and people love to get it as a gift, neatly wrapped in a pretty piece of fabric.

This was by far the most popular jam I made in 2o10 … even though I suppose it’s technically more of a tapenade or dip. Here goes: render a massive amount of bacon – the recipe says  1 1/2 lbs but I doubled it to three and may have (ahem) used a little extra – in a big pot. When it starts to smell like victory, add chopped onions, garlic, chives, and assorted things you like to use.  I added some extra herbs. Then add a cup of strong coffee, maple syrup, cider vinegar and some brown sugar. Put it all in your slow cooker, on high, with the lid off. Your kitchen will smell amazing.

Smells like victory

 

After the mixture starts to thicken and get bubbly and a little darker, it’s ready. I learned after two batches of this awesomeness that although bacon fat is … well, kind of the idea, it is a little bit greasy for some. If you’re giving it as a gift, skim off some of the fat, if for nothing else then because it doesn’t look pretty through the glass jar.

This stuff is delicious on any sandwich. I also tried some with hot sauce and cream cheese as a tasty dip for tortilla chips. It is amazing.

Pretty bacon jam

Why not share?

Of course, it wasn’t an accident that the magazines are putting ideas like homemade jams and jellies in our heads around the holidays. From Halloween til New Year’s, people everywhere – like me – are looking for ways to wow their friends and acquaintances with the deliciousness coming forth from your kitchen. Something that can be done on a budget? Even better. Something that can be decorated artfully and delivered personally? Lovely.

Pom-Pear Jam