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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Döner Kebab-Döner Kebap

Döner Kebap Porsiyon—A main dish serving
Our guide to Turkey, Oz, says, "The complexities and scale involved in making this dish generally drive the home cook away. I was first exposed to it in a restaurant in Izmit, Turkey, outside of Istanbul. A gyro-like combination of Ground lamb, beef, and sirloin is cooked on a vertical spit and shaved as needed."

Döner Kebap, literally meaning "Rotating Roast," is a common dish found across much of the Middle East, now popular in Europe—sold by street vendors as Döner Kebab and in Middle Eastern restaurants—, and is best known in the United States as Shawarma or Gyros. All of these preparations come from the same origin; to quote Wikipedia:
In his...family Biography, İskender Efendi from...19th century Bursa claims that "he and his grandfather had the idea of roasting the lamb vertically rather than horizontally, and invented for that purpose a vertical mangal". With time, the meat took a different marinade, got leaner, and eventually took its modern shape.
Traditionally, the concoction is usually made from many solid pieces of meat, pounded thin, marinated, and placed in layers on a skewer; often, a mixture of ground trimmings from the meat, spices, and an egg (to act as a binder) is spread between the layers; the stack then is topped with fat, and sometimes an onion or tomato to add more flavor. The skewer is then placed vertically in a rotisserie and cooked until it's done, with portions shaved off as needed with a knife (or sometimes some kind of electric trimmer device.)

Shaping the meat into a loaf
Döner Kebap Meat
3 lb (1.36 kilo) ground lamb
3 lb (1.36 kilo) ground beef
1 lb (453 g) ground sweet onion
1 1/2 c (355 ml) chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper
Juice of 5 onions, ground

1. Mix the ground meats, ground onion, and chopped parsley thoroughly, with salt and pepper to taste. Put this mixture into a bowl large enough to hold it with some space left over for the marinade.

2. Cover the meat with the onion juice, cover, and allow to sit, refrigerated, for at least an hour.

3. Pre-heat an oven to broiling temperature, or 500°F/260°C/Gas Mark 10 if you don't have a broiler setting.

4. Mold the meat into a loaf shape, slightly taller than it is wide. Place it on a sheet pan and put it into the pre-heated oven, and roast until a nice, brown crust develops. Back off the heat to 400°F/204°C/Gas Mark 6, and test the internal temperature of the meat. As the internal temperature approaches 165°F/74°C, continue lowering the heat to about 250°F/120°C/Gas Mark 1/2. Every 15-20 minutes, check the oven and drain off the fat that will come pouring from the meat. Reserve this fat for use as a basting liquid—and periodically, if the meat seems to be dry, baste with some of the fat. This process will take about two to three hours.

The Döner meat
5. If you have a rotisserie, once the meat has almost reached 165°F/74°C, skewer the meat on the spit and place it close to the heat source. Allow it to continue cooking until service time, basting with the collected fat.

This is obviously not the traditional method—but we discovered in the kitchen that the ground meat mixture was not stiff enough to hold itself on the rotisserie spit, and would have fallen off if we'd roasted it in that manner the whole time. Instead, we opted to roast the meat in the oven as described above, and allow it to finish cooking/stay at temperature on the rotisserie.

Sautéed red bell peppers
This wonderful meat is then sliced thinly off the spit, and served on a pita, drizzled with paprika butter and topped with sautéed red peppers and fresh, minced hot peppers.

For our meal, we used this recipe for pita. Your favorite recipe may be substituted without trouble. The pita is often pre-cut into small pieces such that the meat may be eaten with a bit of bread and some topping without having to rip and tear at the bread itself.

You may also choose to serve the dish stuffed inside the pocket of a pita bread, wrapped in a lavash, or on top of a rice pilaf—they're all delicious versions using the same simple base.


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