Thursday, August 7, 2008

Souvlaki with Tzatziki sauce, bitches

Hypotheticals and Rachel Ray aside, here's an actual recipe that is a favorite among my family and friends who've been lucky enough to have it with us.

My wife spent many years in Greece while her dad was stationed there in the Air Force. Something she and her siblings really loved over there was souvlaki. The following is our take on it, somewhat authentic, somewhat modified, all damn good.

The outcome of all of this is a pita wrap, basically.

There are three parts to this: the meat (souvlaki), the sauce (tzatziki), and the pitas.

Tzatziki:
While the meat is the star of the show, the sauce takes quite a while to prepare and needs to sit for a while to get the proper taste. So, start with this. We like to make A LOT of sauce to eat on the side, so this is a big version. You can pare this down if you don't want so much.
* 32 ounces sour cream (plain yogurt is used in many recipes, but sour cream is more authentic tasting and you don't have to drain it like plain yogurt)
* 6 cucumbers
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/2 cup lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon dill (mint can be substituted)
* Two whole garlic bulbs

Put the sour cream into a bowl. If it is liquidy (it does happen sometimes, especially if you use light sour cream), you need to drain it. Put some paper towels in the bottom of a strainer put the cream on top, set the strainer on top of a pan, put the in the fridge, and let drain for a couple of hours.

Cucumbers need to be peeled and seeded. You can either finely chop them or grate them. We used to grate them, but have come to prefer them finely chopped.

The garlic needs to be minced. You should get at least 8 cloves worth out of the two bulbs.

Mix this all together, put in fridge, and let it sit overnight. The flavors need this time to blend.

Souvlaki:
* 1 leg of lamb, cubed (lots of people are also using pork, chicken or beef, or a combination of them, but we have always used lamb)
* 1/4 cup lemon juice
* 1/4 cup red wine (cooking wine's good too)
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1 teaspoon paprika
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1 tablespoon dill (or dried mint)
* 3 cloves garlic, crushed
* Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the lamb into one-inch cubes, trimming as much of the fat off as possible. Put lamb cubes in a large bowl. Set aside.

Whisk all of the other ingredients together and pour over the meat. Massage the marinade into the meat well (get them hands dirty!) and put in the fridge for two to six hours.

When you're ready to cook, fire up the grill (charcoal, preferably). Traditionally, the meat is cooked on the grill on skewers. However, my family has discovered a much easier way of dealing with this. Both of my brothers-in-law are Domino's Pizza managers. Their pizzas are cooked on mesh pizza screens. We have found that the cubed meat cooks perfectly on the grill if you put down one of those mesh pizza screens. I have not yet gone shopping to discover a decent consumer alternative, but I do know that Domino's always has tons of extra screens they would probably get rid of.

Your grill should be at about 350-400 degrees. The meat will cook in about 5 minutes in this case. I suggest setting your oven on about 200 degrees, this way you can put your meat in the oven as you complete it and keep it warm while you get your pita bread ready.

Pita:
The best luck we've had with Pita bread was the last time we cooked souvlaki -- while on vacation in Redmond, Or. We wound up going to a Greek restaurant in Bend and buying some pitas from them. It was the freshest we've ever been able to get in the States. It's amazing how hard it can be to find decent pitas. Some day we'll start cooking our own.

Anyway, to prepare the pitas, you'll need
* Olive oil
* Paprika
* Salt

Rub both sides of the pita liberally with olice oil. Sprinkle both sides of the pita with the paprika (liberally) and salt (to taste).

Cook the pitas on the grill. You're not trying to actually get a crust, you just want to warm them up. So, 30 seconds to a minute on each side, tops.

Serving:
With an open pita, dollop on a liberal amount of the tzatziki sauce. Then drop in a good amount of meat.

Other toppings that go well on the wrap are tomatoes, lettuce and onions. We like to saute onions, but fresh, sliced onions are more traditional.

Enjoy!

3 comments:

Baby Huey said...

Mesh Screen alternative:

1 part alumninum pie tin
1 part screwdriver
1 part rage

pril said...

i lurve tzatziki sauce. I'm totally stealing your family heirloom recipe.

pamela said...

Damn that sounds freaking good. I'm definately stealing going to try this recipe. Thanks.