Slow cooked beer braised lamb gyros are so good, I could eat them every week. With homemade fries. If only Chris would make them every week…
Yesterday was a relaxed, stay-at-home kind of day. Coconut porter pancakes for late breakfast, gyros for lunch/dinner and a few quality craft brews in between. We didn’t even regret not going skiing. Just the thought of the hundreds of cars trying to find parking and the crowds on the runs over the course of a sunny long weekend was enough to keep us at home.
Plus, it snowed in Keystone overnight, so when we go tomorrow we’ll have better skiing conditions and the runs to ourselves. Yey! That’s the funny thing about Keystone. You go there on a regular winter day, the resort is full of vacationers and Denver area commuters and you barely find a spot to park. You even wait in line for the gondola or the base lifts. Then once you get to the top and start skiing, it’s like the people vanish. There are entire runs without anyone skiing on them. It always amazes me how the mountain absorbs the crowds. I am positive they are not all skiing the trees or the back bowls. Not complaining, just feeling impressed that this is how it is. In any event, I am looking forward to burning the extra delicious calories from yesterday’s day of home-style beering. After I begin the day with a detox drink of course.
About the beer braised lamb gyros. They are definitely not on any of the menus of Keystone resort area restaurants. They take time. The beer braising not only tenderizes the meat, it literally infuses it with deep, earthy, malty flavors. It’s kind of hard having to wait around while the braising liquid is doing its thing (we are talking a 275°F oven) and taking in the tantalizing aromas.
Chris braises a number of different meats in a number of different liquids. His signature 1554 Braised Short Ribs are one the best selling items on his menu at work (it is a very popular brew of New Belgium Brewing Co). Naturally, he did the cooking yesterday, so I am just going to describe what he did.
First and foremost, he prepped several of the ingredients. Not shown below are 2 cups of beef broth, 2 cups of chicken stock, mint leaves (we only had frozen from fresh mint, but it did the trick) and 1 tbsp of brown sugar. The reason for them not being shown is that I had no idea exactly what he was going to do, so… I failed to supervise the roll call of the ingredients.
The lamb meat we used was lamb leg, sold cut in pieces for stew. This was what we had in the freezer. It is totally fine if you have a bigger two lbs or so chunk of lamb leg or shoulder to braise. No need to cut it into small pieces, it will still be tender after braising. You will simply wait a little longer.
Chris seared the meat, took it out, then cooked the veggies, added the tomato paste and after about a minute deglazed the pot with the beer and let it reduce to about half for the flavors to concentrate. We used a heavier, robust and malty red ale we got from our beer club, Kannah Creek Brewing Co. Vertical Drop. A Colorado beer at that!
Chris also made an herb sachet using cheesecloth, which he placed inside the pot. Finally, he added back the lamb, some brown sugar and a quart of beef & chicken stock combo.
He covered the pot with a heavy lid and left it in the 275°F oven for 1 1/2 hours. During that time we each enjoyed a beer and I made fresh tzatziki sauce and cut up two gigantic potatoes for homemade fries. I cut them by hand, naturally, and yes, Chris did actually fry the fries. We have pretty good cholesterol levels in result of exercising and taking oregano oil daily, therefore we are not afraid to eat fried fries:)
Once the lamb pieces were tender enough to be easily pulled apart with a fork, Chris took them out of the liquid and placed them in a bowl. He didn’t overdo the pulling apart, since we wanted beer braised lamb gyros, not pulled
pork lamb = chunks preferred.
These homemade fries!!! I put a few inside my gyro, along with the lamb. Of course, feta, olives and tzatziki are needed… We used store bought pita which was pretty good (brush a little olive oil on each piece and warm them in the oven before constructing your gyro).
Don’t discard the braising liquid
If you think about it (I am pretty sure that you actually did think about it), the work and the time involved in perfecting the meat for these beer braised lamb gyros is significant. Good news – you can use the braising liquid to make something else! It can serve as the base for a hearty homemade soup, you can add some corn starch to thicken it and turn it into a gravy or you could cook lentils with it – which is what I will do.
After removing the meat from the braising liquid discard the herb sachet and the veggie pieces and let the thick, delicious liquid cool off. Store in an air tight container in the fridge and use it to make something else. Soon – do not leave it in the fridge for days.
I am pretty sure I didn’t miss anything, here is the summary:)
Recipe for Beer Braised Lamb Gyros
- 2 lbs lamb leg or lamb shoulder
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 large celery ribs
- 1 large carrot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 beer (12 oz) with deep, malty flavors ex. strong red ale, porter, stout, dunkel, bock
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- oregano, mint, thyme - fresh herbs prefered, 2-3 small stems of each
- salt & pepper to season meat
- pita bread (4-6 pieces)
- Peel and rough chop veggies. Leave peeled garlic cloves whole.
- Wrap fresh herbs into a sachet using cheesecloth and tie well.
- Heat oven to 275°F.
- Season meat with salt and pepper and heat up a heavy pot with a lid over medium heat using 1 tbsp vegetable oil.
- Sear the meat in the pot and remove once it has been browned on all sides.
- Add the other 1 tbsp vegetable oil and reduce the heat slightly.
- Add the veggies and garlic and cook until translucent, stirring every minute or so.
- Add the tomato paste, stir well and after 1 minute, deglaze the pan with the beer.
- Add the brown sugar.
- Let the beer reduce by half to concentrate the flavors.
- Add the seared meat and pour the beef and chicken stocks.
- Cover the pot with the lid and place it inside the oven.
- Let it cook until the meat is tender and can be pulled apart with a fork. This can take anywhere from 1½ hrs to 2½ hrs, depending on your oven and the size of the meat (cut in pieces or a single chunk).
- Once the meat is tender, take the pot out of the oven and turn it off.
- Remove the meat from the pot and pull it apart using forks, aim for olive sized pieces, do not over do it.
- Lightly brush pita bread with olive oil and place inside the oven for a quick warm up.
- Assemble gyros and garnish with your favorite ingredients (ex. crumbled feta cheese, diced fresh tomatoes, red onions, olives, mixed greens, tzatziki etc).