Forget ribs or barbecue sauce — the annual Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church lamb barbecue is all about the Greek eats, from the lamb and the stuffed grape leaves to the baklava.
The annual barbecue will be on Saturday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bob Leuchs, president of the church’s parish council, said that the barbecued lamb flies off the grill as soon as the food line opens for the afternoon. Leuchs attributes that to the quality of the lamb and its marinade, which is what separates this traditional Greek barbecue from any Kansas City barbecue.
“The marinade is important,” Leuchs said. “The marinade consists of olive oil and lemon juice, onions, salt and pepper and oregano and a little dill and parsley.”
One of the founding members of the parish introduced this marinade recipe, and it’s been used ever since. The lamb (all 350 pounds) is marinated overnight starting on Thursday. It is then mixed periodically throughout the day on Friday. The lamb is skewered over six long skewers and barbecued on Saturday.
“We are lucky that we are small enough — we basically cook our lamb to order,” Leuchs said. “As soon as [the lamb] is coming off the barbecue, it’s going in and getting plated.”
But the preparation for the annual barbecue began weeks ago, as members met to prepare 600 meatballs, pastitsio (a type of Greek lasagna), stuffed grape leaves and homemade pita. There’s plenty to eat, from Greek sausage and souvlaki to hot dogs and the church’s own approach to a Greek hamburger.
“We do lamb burgers, which we started doing a couple of years ago,” Leuchs said. “It’s a hamburger made out of lamb, and we serve them with tzatziki sauce.”
Everything is made by hand, including the sweets, like baklava, koulourakia, rice pudding and finikia.
“Whoopie pies are certainly a big seller, even though there’s nothing Greek about a whoopie pie,” Leuchs said.
The Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church lamb barbecue kicks off the season of Greek festivals in the Queen City. Each year, Leuchs and his fellow parishioners organize the barbecue in early summer. The other two Greek churches hold their festivals later in the season (Assumption Greek Orthodox Church has Greekfest in August, followed by St. George’s Glendi festival in September), but Leuchs said that’s for a good reason.
“All the saints have namedays and the barbecues are typically held around the same time as the patron saint. In our case, Saint Nicholas’ name day is in December, which isn’t a good time to have a barbecue,” he said.
As seen in the June 12, 2014 issue of the Hippo.