Restaurant chefs use a complex layering method and special vertical rotisserie to create the lamb they slice for traditional gyros. It’s a difficult and expensive process to reproduce in a home kitchen.
We needed a homestyle recipe that would give us the same flavors and textures as restaurant gyros, even if they didn't have the traditional appearance.
When we tried to cook thin strips of lamb, the results resembled a bad stir-fry. Pan-fried ground lamb patties flavored with oregano, onion, and minced garlic had the texture and flavor we wanted, even if they didn't look like the meat typically used in gyros. To make the patties juicier, we added a panade (a paste of fresh bread crumbs and milk), substituting pita crumbs for the traditional bread crumbs. For readers who couldn't easily find ground lamb, we also developed a ground beef version. Our final step was to create the tzatziki sauce-a cooling combination of yogurt, garlic, cucumber, and dill or mint that traditionally accompanies gyros. Since Greek yogurt-which is denser and richer than American yogurt- is not easy to find, we converted whole-milk yogurt to the proper consistency by draining it for 30 minutes. Salting the cucumber also reduced excess moisture. An unconventional but welcome addition of feta cheese was the final touch.