Talking turkey — and gyros
FoodA fun and healthy weeknight meal

Talking turkey — and gyros

Small burgers can be made from this recipe as well

Turkey gyro (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Turkey gyro (Photo by Jessica Grann)

I don’t know about you, but we get some really random food cravings in our home — which lead to lots of failures and a few surprising wins in the kitchen.

Until recently, I didn’t understand the appeal of ground turkey; I found it dry and flavorless. After a lot of experimenting, I realized that ground turkey just needs lots of seasoning and a little bit of extra oil.

I planned to make small Greek turkey burgers that would fit into a pita, but my husband suggested flattening the meat and cutting it into strips, then pan-frying it to recreate the kind of squared-off gyro meat that we loved at another time in our lives. We were surprised that the turkey came out so well, and we’ve been enjoying it as a fun and healthy weeknight meal.

If you prefer, you can use this recipe to make small Greek turkey burgers.

Turkey gyros (or small burgers)
Serves 3-4; can be doubled

1 pound ground turkey
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons matzah meal or bread crumbs
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 teaspoons Greek seasoning
Oil for pan frying
Salt and pepper to taste
Pitas for serving, with sliced tomato, onions, lettuce
Parve tzatziki or garlic herb mayo

Place the ground turkey into a large mixing bowl with the garlic, olive oil, matzah meal and seasonings. If you don’t have Greek seasoning, you can search online to see how to make it with spices in your pantry, like oregano, dill and parsley. Some store-bought seasoning blends have added salt and pepper; keep this in mind and omit the kosher salt from the mixture if that’s the case.

Mix the turkey with the seasonings gently — ground turkey gets kind of pasty when it’s overmixed.
Allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour so the spices settle in and the matzah meal softens.

This mixture can be formed into small burgers, or you can try the flattened version as follows.

“Gyro” meat from ground turkey (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Because the turkey mixture is slightly sticky, place a piece of parchment paper over a sheet pan and hand-pat the turkey mixture onto the pan as thinly as possible, about a half-inch thick. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for an hour before cooking. This helps the turkey firm up a bit and makes it easier to cut it into pieces before cooking.

Using a sharp knife, cut the turkey into rectangle-shaped pieces.

Over medium heat, add about a half-inch of oil to a frying pan. If using olive oil, keep an eye on the heat so the oil doesn’t burn. Olive oil works great over medium heat but starts to smoke and burn if the heat gets higher. You can also use avocado oil or another neutral vegetable oil. Allow the oil to heat for a few minutes before adding the turkey in batches. Whether you made small burgers (less than 4 inches in diameter) or the thinner sheet pan version, you should be able to get about 4 pieces at a time into your pan.

Use a spatula to lift the raw meat pieces and place them into the hot oil. Pan fry for about 4 minutes on the first side. The color will change to white when it’s cooked. Be sure that the turkey is cooked at least halfway up the side of the piece before flipping it over to cook for a few more minutes. Both sides should have a nice golden-brown color. Per food safety, check the internal temperature with a digital thermometer — it should be at least 165 F.

Taste the first piece to see if extra salt or spices are needed and, if they are, sprinkle them onto the pieces that have not yet been cooked.

The meat can be served in pitas or on top of a big salad.

To make a parve sauce for the meal: Mix about ¾ cup of mayonnaise, pareve yogurt or pareve sour cream to 1 clove of minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Add salt and herbs to taste. Dried herbs work well in this sauce, but you can choose fresh dill, oregano and mint if you have it on hand. Start with a half-teaspoon of each and add more to your liking.

If you’re going for the tzatziki vibe, add diced cucumber into the mix. Thinly sliced onion, tomato and romaine lettuce complement the pita.

This “faux gyro” makes a tasty salad plate if you’re avoiding bread. It also tastes wonderful with a Greek vinaigrette.

Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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