Monday, July 16, 2012

Recipe: Sweet 'n' Spicy Lamb Gyroti

In December of 2009, Joel and I spent a glorious week on the island of Antigua, eating Caribbean and French food, playing with lizards and baby donkeys, ziplining, and enjoying the tropical weather. While most of the food was extraordinary, one of the dishes that has really stuck with us is roti. In Indian cuisine, the word "roti" refers specifically to a round, unleavened bread frequently served with curry, but in parts of the Caribbean, it refers to a more complete dish: bread that resembles Indian roti, wrapped around a curry-coated filling, generally meat, poultry, or seafood. It's often topped with a fruit marmalade, particularly mango. As I mentioned in a previous post, we had no idea what roti was, but as we sat in a restaurant and overheard a nearby diner raving about how the roti was the best he'd ever had, we ordered it immediately. It was fantastic, indeed.

Back in Boston, we've been unable to find roti within our general Somerville/Cambridge dining radius, but there are apparently a few roti shops in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. Meanwhile, we frequently make our own version. It's incredibly easy, and it's definitely a go-to dish on nights when we're not in the mood to exert much effort on dinner. In most cases, we grab a ready-to-go rotisserie chicken from Shaw's, shred it up and mix it with Kikkoman Thai Yellow Curry Sauce, and add some pan-fried potato chunks. Then we wrap it up in warm tortillas, which Joel toasts directly on the stovetop gas burner (which terrifies me a little bit), and we top it with a dollop of an orange or mango jam, whatever we have on hand.

Last year, the Tri-Lamb Group (no, not that one) reached out to me to see if I'd host a series of lamb dinner parties in order to help spread the word that lamb is a lean and delicious meat that is easy and versatile. Over the course of six months, they provided me with recipes, lamb, and other ingredients to host three different parties. Here's a video I created after the first party:

While the original plan involved just those three parties, they recently reached out again with one more challenge: this time, we'd have to create our own recipe and serve it at another dinner party. After scratching our heads for a few minutes, we decided we wanted to do a play on our beloved roti. We didn't love the idea of mango or orange with lamb, so the jam morphed into a blackberry sauce that we've used on duck and goose. We also moved away from curry, instead opting for a spicy yogurt sauce for the interior of the roti. Once we decided on yogurt, we realized we were heading in the direction of a gyro, so we decided to call our creation a "gyroti."

Sweet 'n' Spicy Lamb Gyroti
Serves 8-12

Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Marinating time: 2 hours minimum; overnight if time allows
Cooking time: 40-50 minutes

  • 1 boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
  • 12 whole wheat tortillas
  • 18 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp harissa (with extra on hand for increased spiciness)
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brandy
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 oz fresh blackberries
  • 3 tbsp olive oil-based butter substitute, such as Olivio
  • salt and pepper

Ingredient Notes
  • Ask your butcher to butterfly the lamb for you to save preparation time.
  • If you can't find harissa, a Tunisian chili paste, substitute any other hot red chili paste. The Asian aisle of any supermarket will have several options.
  • Suggested additions: include cucumber and/or tomato inside the wrap, or serve a tomato and cucumber side salad.

This recipe requires no special utensils, although a potato masher comes in handy when preparing the blackberry sauce.


Marinate the Lamb
Start at least three hours prior to serving but preferably a day in advance.
  1. Butterfly the lamb if it isn't already butterflied, and carefully cut some of the fat off for a leaner meal.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper over all sides of the lamb, and then rub light brown sugar all over, patting it in gently. Place lamb in a container or bag for marinating.
  3. Make the marinade by combining 1/4 cup brandy, 1/4 red wine vinegar, and 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the lamb. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
Prepare the Blackberry Sauce
Begin at least two hours prior to serving so the sauce has enough time to thicken and cool. For best results, do this the day before and store in the refrigerator overnight. The sauce is best served at room temperature. 
  1. Melt 3 tbsp light brown sugar into 3 tbsp butter substitute on the stovetop at low heat. Once melted, raise to high heat.
  2. Add 2 tbsp red wine vinegar and allow the mixture to come to a boil.
  3. Add blackberries; mash. (A potato masher is helpful here, but you can also just use a spoon or spatula.)
  4. Return heat to low, and add 2 tbsp brandy.
  5. Let reduce for 45 minutes to an hour; the final consistency will be runnier and thinner than a berry jam.
  6. Set aside to cool until serving. (Refrigerate overnight if prepared a day in advance, and allow it to warm to room temperature before serving.)
Cook the Lamb
Start cooking at least an hour before serving. After the lamb finishes cooking, you'll want to let it rest for several minutes before carving. You can prepare the yogurt sauce while the lamb rests.
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Brown the lamb in an uncovered pan on the stovetop, about 6-8 minutes per side.
  3. Cook uncovered in the oven for 25-35 minutes.
  4. Let rest while you prepare the yogurt sauce.
  5. Carve the lamb into small chunks.

Prepare the Yogurt Sauce
Combine the yogurt and harissa to taste, starting with three tablespoons of harissa. Add more if desired to reach your optimal level of spiciness.

Assemble the Gyroti
  1. Warm the tortilla in the oven, toaster oven, or carefully directly on top of a gas burner on the stove. Place on plate.
  2. Put a serving of lamb on the center of the tortilla and add any other optional mix-ins, like tomato and cucumber chunks.
  3. Spoon a generous dollop of yogurt sauce over the lamb.
  4. Wrap up the tortilla burrito-style.
  5. Spoon a generous serving of blackberry sauce on top of the tortilla.

You're gonna want a knife and fork for this. Or a lot of napkins.

Disclosure: The Tri-Lamb Group provided me with enough lamb for recipe testing and for hosting a dinner party with eight guests, as well as a gift card to help cover other ingredient costs. 

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