450 pounds of lamb
A lot of work, marinade and a good smoke go into lamb barbecue
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
Lamb and other Greek specialties will take center stage on Saturday, June 14, at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church’s annual lamb barbecue.
“Most Greek orthodox churches do some type of Greek festival each year,” said parish council president Bob Leuchs. “We’ve been doing one for 30 years or more. This latest version [lamb barbecue] has been going on for about 10 years.”
The one-day festival was traditionally held on the second Saturday of June to avoid Father’s Day — that is until last year. Leuchs had a wedding to attend, so they moved the festival back a week to the holiday weekend — and it was the most successful one ever. This year’s barbecue just happens to be on both the second Saturday and Father’s Day weekend.
The day’s main attraction will be the Greek-style barbecue lamb. Church member George Moulis created the recipe years ago, and it has become famous among the other members. Now in his 80s, he oversees the meat preparation.
On Thursday night Leuchs said about 25 “guys” will cut up 450 pounds of boned legs of lamb into one-inch cubes. The meat will be put into pans and marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, onion, oregano and a little dill. “We use the Greek hoofta method — just throw the ingredients in until it looks right,” Leuchs said. “The marinade makes the meat nice and tender.”
All the pans go into the refrigerator. Twice on Friday, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, Leuchs will take all the pans out of the fridge and mix up the meat. The process takes about an hour each time.
Saturday morning all the meat will be placed on skewers and put onto an old, upright charcoal barbecue that was built by Moulis’s brother, Pete — three skewers on each side. They are turned by a motor until the meat is perfectly cooked. A more conventional second barbecue is also used to speed up the cooking process.
The barbecue lamb meal includes about six pieces of meat, rice pilaf, Greek salad, and a slice of pita bread ($11). For festival-goers who are not lamb fans, there will be pastitsio, which is ziti layered with seasoned ground beef in tomato sauce, then topped with a cream sauce and baked. It will also be served with a Greek salad ($6). Other meals include Greek meatballs, served with rice pilaf and salad ($7); stuffed grape leaves with rice pilaf and salad ($6), and pita (spinach pie) with salad for $5.
There will also be plenty of desserts, from Greek specialties such as baklava and cookies to more standard brownies and fudge. All the main-course dishes can be purchased separately, and each meal is available for take-out orders.
Leuchs said that the festival volunteers make a lot of the dishes themselves, and parishioners donate other items, primarily the desserts. For example, there will be 20 pans of pita made on the Wednesday before the event, and 10 pans of pastitsio made on Friday.
Most of the money raised from the event will support church programs. A portion of the raffle money will go to other charities, such as the food bank, Habitat for Humanity, and the Shriners Hospitals. Leuchs said the festival is like an Old Home Greek Day: “All of the churches support each other. People come together from all over to see one another.”