culinary experiment: lamb neck

March 24, 2021

More than fifteen years ago, I was a high school math teacher and tennis coach. Fast forward to today and one of my former students and tennis players is a doctor! She’s also really into food. I wish I could take credit for either of those developments, but she was well on her way to being a doctor before I taught her, and though I would occasionally get off topic with lessons on eating, I doubt my tirade on the horrors of Applebee’s made her the cook she is today.

On her Instagram she posts cooking challenges which encourage the use of specific ingredients. This month she put out a challenge to use an unusual cut of meat. So yesterday, I went to Formaggio Kitchen, which just relocated into a much larger space that includes an exceptional butcher’s counter, and while there, I spied lamb neck. Well that might not be offal, but it qualifies as an unusual cut to me. I got a slice. (Yes a slice of neck sounds a little violent.) And tonight I gave it a shot.

Most recipes for lamb neck call for a long slow cook, but I just had a slice and I didn’t have three hours. I started by searing it on both sides in butter, oil, and rosemary, about five minutes per side. Then I added in some sliced shallot and cooked that down for a minute or two. I deglazed the pan with red wine and then added a cup of vegetable broth. I simmered it on low turning every fifteen minutes or so for about an hour. I finished it off with chopped fresh rosemary and crumbled feta cheese.

The verdict, the meat was excellent. Maybe a longer cook would have made it more tender, but I liked it the way it was. The flavor was extraordinary, pungent lamb but not too gamey. I find a lot of supermarket lamb has almost no flavor, but when I get small farm lamb it is overly gamey. There was a lot of fat on this cut, but the sear and the long cook made it more like pork belly than beef fat, nothing chewy or gristly. The sauce didn’t hit the mark, the concentrated vegetable broth wasn’t particularly good. I think maybe more wine less broth is the way to go, but then that would be less wine for drinking. I will certainly give it another try both a small slice and maybe soon a whole neck!

I am really enjoying these food challenges, they get me out of my comfort zone and have me thinking about new foods to try. I certainly don’t think I would have picked up lamb neck on a Tuesday without the encouragement. If you are looking to expand your repertoire, go check out MarinatedMD and take on a cooking challenge. If you do, let me know!

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