Saint Nicholas offers up lamb and other Greek eats
By Lisa Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church’s annual spring lamb barbecue is not just about lamb.
Ask anyone who regularly attends and they’ll tell you, a lot of the people who show up to graze and kibitz, also come to see George Moulis — after all, it’s his recipe that makes the lamb shimmy on the skewer.
“It’s George’s famous barbecue...he’s the lamb guy here, he serves it and everyone comes to see George,” said Bob Leuchs, president of the St. Nicholas Parish Council.
The festival takes place on Saturday, June 16, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the church grounds at 1160 Bridge St. Extension in Manchester. Along with the barbecue, there will be other classic Greek dishes including pastitsio, souvlaki, dolmathes, and pita (local slang for spanakopita).
In addition, there will be a large assortment of sumptuous Greek glykismata, which means pastries. Look for traditional baklava, kataifi, koulourakia, galaktoboureko (custard wrapped in thin sheets of phyllo dough and baked to a golden brown, soaked in a light lemony syrup after baking) and loukoumades.
“They are like little donut holes, fried dough, served in a syrup with honey and cinnamon — oh, they are delicious,” Leuchs said.
The entire menu is prepared by members of Saint Nicholas Church, the smallest of the three Greek orthodox Churches in Manchester. It began as a neighborhood church back in the 1930s.
“We are a parish of mixed marriages. I’m a good example,” Leuchs said. “I wasn’t brought up Greek, I married a Greek. I don’t know the language, but I do know when my wife is swearing at me — that’s as far as my understanding goes.”
With only 80 families, the church puts on a huge spread that takes days to prepare, especially the lamb. George Moulis, who is in his80s, is in charge of the barbecue sauce. But don’t be fooled by the word barbecue. In Greek cooking, barbecue is another name for marinade, a mixture of oils and spices.
“That’s what Greeks call barbecue. In a Greek restaurant it might be called kabob or barbecue lamb, but once it’s cooked over charcoal, it’s barbecue lamb,” Leuchs said. “The nice thing about our lamb is that we are small enough, so we cook to order. We are cooking and serving it as it come off the skewers.”
Preparing 58 legs of lamb begins days before the grills roll out.
“There will be a dozen of us up there cutting [the lamb] up, putting it in stainless steel pans, and then we add the marinade and refrigerate it,” Leuchs said. “I’ll go up a couple of times — into the refrigerator — and turn it. It’s like sticking your hands into goo, you have to mix it up, make sure all the spices get on all the pieces so you mix it up.”
While the recipe used by George Moulis is famous, it’s not a secret. Anyone can have it, if they can figure it out. No one actually knows exactly how much of what goes in it.
“The recipe for the marinade? We really don’t have proportions. It’s a ‘hoofta’ — a handful of this and a handful of that. We go around and do it until it looks right,” Leuchs said.
The lamb barbecue is the Church’s major fundraiser for the year. Organizers say they hope to bring in enough money to cover 15 percent of the church’s annual budget. That’s a lot of kabobs.
“A festival is something that makes a lot of money, it’s fun and the community gets to taste a little bit of Greece,” Leuchs said.
Leuchs says the popularity of Greek festivals is in part because there are so few authentic Greek restaurants in New Hampshire. When people get a chance for traditional, homemade Greek food, they take advantage of it and stock up. Most of what is served at the barbecue can be frozen.
“My wife and I, we’ll freeze the pita. Lamb also freezes well,” Leuchs said. For people who do want to take food home, most items can be purchased ala carte and take-out containers will be available. In conjunction with the festivities, Saint Nicholas will also hold a calendar raffle, penny raffle and silent auction. Clean out your freezer; it’s time to stock up.