Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce

Gyro Meat
A couple of weeks ago we had some friends over for a Sunday feast. J has previously mastered the Chicken Gyros (recipe soon!) and wanted to try his hand at the more traditional gyro meat, which is a combination of lamb and beef. As usual, one of our favorite Food Network chefs, Alton Brown, didn’t disappoint with this easy recipe. The hardest part was pressing the meat without a brick!

Ingredient Gyro Meat:
1 medium onion, finely chopped (we used the food processor)
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (we probably used a little more)
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)

Directions Gyro Meat:
Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice. (We actually just used a coffee filter inside a strainer with a weight on top). Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb, beef, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down sides of bowl. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. We ended up cooking this in two loaf pans. A bread loaf pan and a 9×13 pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. (We ended up doing this twice as the first time the temperature wasn’t quite high enough. In fact, we ended up turning up the heat to 350 degrees just to make sure it cooked through.) Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F. We used smaller pans to press the meat. Warning: Be careful during this process, the water is hot, the meat is hot, the pan is hot and there are lots of opportunities for burns. Steam burns hurt. If you are using traditional pot holders and oven gloves, be extra careful the steam will cause these to get wet and increase your chances of getting a burn. If you have an oveglove, use that, we plan to invest in one ourselves.

Slice and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes and feta cheese.

My opinion:
This was so so so so good. I couldn’t stop eating it. The flavors rally shine and despite my hesitation (and general aversion to sauces) the tzatziki sauce make all the flavors pop even more. I cannot wait to eat this again!

Ingredients Tzatziki Sauce:
16 ounces plain yogurt (we used Dannon because it came in the right sized container)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
Pinch kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil (we used extra virgin)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
5 to 6 fresh mint leaves, finely minced

Directions:
Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator. (We actually didn’t do this as the yogurt we purchased had already separated so we just drained it off). Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week. (We just used the original container.)

My opinion:
This is good as a dip too! I’ve eaten it with pita chips and tortilla chips. Where it really makes a difference is on the gyro meat.

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The best Macaroni and Cheese Ever


I love a good blue box dinner every once in a while. To be truthful, I compare every other macaroni and cheese dish against that standard. I blame nostalgia over anything else. Lately, J has taken over more of the cooking responsibilities in our house. Since he likes to try new dishes and tweak old ones, I’ve been spoiled. When he made this macaroni and cheese dish this weekend, I told him we could never go back to the blue box. Ever.

Ingredients:
4 to 5 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter (plus 2 tablespoons to mix with cooked pasta)
4 large garlic cloves, minced garlic (the original recipe called for 2 cloves, but since we like garlic, we used more)
1 teaspoon onion powder (in the future, we’ll use regular diced onions)
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (while the original recipe said this was optional at 1/4 teaspoon, but we like cayenne)
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups half-and-half cream (reserve a little or keep milk on hand to assist with the mixing)
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese (we used a mixture of sharp and mild)
1 (16 ounce) package Velveeta cheese (cut into small cubes)
salt & freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
bread crumbs (we used our own, recipe to come!)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a medium casserole dish (we used butter).  Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente (do not overcook the pasta) drain but do not rinse. Place the pasta a bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons butter to prevent sticking; set aside.
Melt 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in minced garlic, onion powder, mustard powder and cayenne pepper; stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in flour and stir for about 1 minute (this should look like a paste). Slowly add cream (or milk if that’s what you’re using) and cook, stirring constantly over medium until bubbly and thickened. (This is when you will need to watch the heat, you may need to turn it down.) Reduce heat and add in both cheeses; mix until melted and smooth. (If you’re like us and the oil separates here and the mixture turns into a big glob. We added a bit more milk to loosen it.) Add in the cooked pasta and toss to combine. (Do this slowly! A little bit at a time. Otherwise, it will be a giant mess!) Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes.

My opinion:
As I said above, I’ll never go back to the trusty blue box. I couldn’t stop eating this. Amazing.