For the last entry in this here contest, I received a bag of clams (already cooked and eaten here) and some ground lamb. Half the ground lamb became the kofta from a few posts ago, and the rest was the basis for this extremely gratifying dinner: 100% homemade gyros.
It’s no secret that I enjoy a from-scratch sandwich, and this was no exception. When you make all the components of something familiar yourself, you realize how much better it can be than what you are accustomed to. That’s a powerful lesson, and a strong motivator when it comes to learning and mastering techniques for producing food at home.
Besides the pita, which I made per the usual recipe, there were some pretty sublime and complementary condiments, all entirely made in house. The trio below, clockwise from the top, is as follows:
- Roasted acorn squash-applesauce purée that accompanied some quail the night before. I made eighteen quarts of applesauce in the fall, and it’s pure gold in these cold, dark evenings. The purée is about 70/30 squash to apple.
- Feta-Greek yogurt sauce with pickled wild garlic and cilantro. I made the feta about a month ago for my cheesemaking class, and it’s perfectly fermented now. The yogurt is a regular thing around here, and the wild garlic is a weed that grows all around the house and is probably my favorite wild edible for its tenacity and taste. Cilantro is also wonderfully winter-proof, and thrives in the garden under a little cover.
- Smoked salsa. My favorite condiment of all, I think, and so easy to make. Two summers ago I made seven pints, and running out was so traumatic that this year I made three times as much.
In addition, there was the beautiful pink kraut made from a mix of red and green cabbage. It’s seriously good: crunchy, sour, and highly addictive.
So, with bread and condiments sorted, I moved on to the main event. Lamb, being an assertive flavor, can take some serious seasoning without being overwhelmed, so I added a bunch of ras el hanout, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, garlic, and herbes de Provence to the bowl and mixed it all thoroughly together. Then I formed it into balls and fried them in the skillet in their own rendered fat.
When they were beautifully browned on the outside and still pink in the middle, I took them out and began constructing sandwiches.
A schmear of purée, a bed of kraut, three meatballs, and then liberal spoons of sauce and salsa later, and we had ourselves a freaking orgasmatory handful of hot mess. Not the most photogenic of foods—it would have taken a rack like falafel joints have to keep it all upright for precious garnishing, composition, and shooting—but with all the richly complex components cavorting like little lambs around the… uh… little lamb balls each mouthful was a profound pleasure.
I can’t say enough good things about this sort of cooking. There’s so much more flavor information in each bite, even of a humble meal like this, when you take responsibility for everything that goes into it. And your kids will understand on a fundamental level that food is made from other food, that ingredients and their provenance make all the difference in the result. Roll your own; you’ll never go back.