Our supermarket had lamb neck in the markdown bin (and it is really inexpensive, given that it’s lamb—lots of bone, of course), and since I’d never had it, I couldn’t resist buying a 2-lb package. Before I cooked it, I had to go back to the same store to pick up a prescription, and found another lamb neck in the discount bin, so I got another 2-lb package. Total of $8 for the 4 pounds.
I haven’t cooked lamb neck before (or had it, for that matter), but obviously it would have to be a slow braise, in something acidic (to get nutrients from the collagen and bone). Tomatoes would work, but for some reason I wanted it to be light in color, not dark red. Plus we just had lasagna (skillet lasagna, very easy) and baked Greek shrimp with tomatoes and feta, so I wanted a tomato break.
I’ve made some terrific stews from turkey neck, and I figured this would be much the same: slow simmer for a few hours, until meat falls from the bone. The meat is extremely tender (by that point, at any rate).
It’s odd how lamb neck is butchered: sort of random, which a couple of very thin slices, a couple of slabs, and the rest in chunks. It includes, as you might expect, quite a bit of bone, but also a fair amount of meat.
Here’s what I’m doing:
12-14 cloves of garlic, minced
Let it rest 15 minutes before using, so the compounds formed from the mincing can stabilize before hitting the hot oil. Easiest way to peel a clove is to crush it with the flat of your knife.
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 lb lamb neck
Salt and pepper neck pieces well, brown in batches in the olive oil and remove to a bowl when browned.
In anything like this, I would want allium: shallots, leeks, onions, and spring onions come to mind. Not scallions in this dish, though: insufficiently robust. Add to the hot pan:
5 large shallots, peeled and chopped (and those I had on hand really were quite large)
the garlic already prepared
2 large carrots, diced (I don’t peel carrots)
salt and pepper
Sauté, stirring frequently—shallots cook quickly and burn easily. Once shallots are softened, return lamb to the pot. (I’m using my 4-qt sauté pan, and it’s pretty full.) Push the pieces of lamb down into the vegetables (i.e., the lamb is not resting on top but sitting on the bottom of the pan).
Pour in any combination of dry vermouth, wine, stock, or water to almost cover the meat.
juice of 3-4 lemons (acid is good when you have bone and collagen in the dish)
2 preserved Meyer lemons, cut up (I’d made these and was eager to use them, but you can just dice a couple of fresh Meyer lemons, peel and all)
2 Tbsp Crosse & Blackwell mint sauce
10-12 yellow grape tomatoes (somewhat larger than cherry tomatoes), sliced into small pieces
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried cracked rosemary
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp soy sauce or Red Boat fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce
small handful chopped mint leaves
Stir that up (and it was here that I took the photo), then stir in:
1/2 c pearled barley (an afterthought, but a good one)
Cover the pot/pan and put in a 200ºF oven for 6-7 hours. Meat should be falling off the bone. (I cooked this 4 1/2 hours in a 250ºF oven, and the meat fell easily from the bone as you picked out the bones.)
Use tongs to remove bones from the pot. In mine, some of the chunks of meat were fairly large; those I cut into smaller pieces with kitchen shears. Use a spoon to skim off any excess fat. Sprinkle top with chopped fresh parsley.
Cooked lamb neck has very much the same mouthfeel as cooked turkey neck: extremely tender, with the liquid silky smooth from dissolved collagen, as with oxtail soup. Definitely something to look for.
The soy sauce or fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce is to add umami. (Measures are approximate.)
Have you ever had lamb neck? If so, how did you fix it?
UPDATE: This would be ideal in a 6-qt slow-cooker, but I don’t have one. I suggest using “Low” (which seems generally to be 200ºF) for 7-8 hours. Meat should be falling from the bone.
UPDATE 2: It occurs to me that mushrooms would go well in this.