I bet you did not know that the most very delicious cut of lamb is actually the neck. That’s right! The neck is the most intensely muscled part of the animal, and a long braise will highlight its delicious and nutritious goodness.
But before you get all weirded out and think that this includes the esophagus and other things you might find unappetizing, you need to know that this is the back part of the neck, and all those glands and windpipes, etc. are not part of this cut. It does include some vertebrae and spinal column, but so do other cuts down through the loin. Believe me, I butcher whole lambs, and I’m not confused in the least.
A whole lamb neck will weigh around 2-3 pounds. This is a formidable cut. Usually, I cut the neck into two portions. You can also cut these into 2 inch rounds if you have the strength and the saw skills. Whether you have a whole or a half neck or neck steaks, the process for this recipe is basically the same. Below is the recipe I recently made for a whole lamb neck stew. And I have to say that it was delicious!
For a whole lamb neck (2-3 pounds)—adjust seasonings up or down to your liking.
- A lamb neck
- Olive oil to coat
Seasoning for neck
- 2 T EVOO
- 1 t crushed cumin (in mortar is best)
- 1 t crushed coriander (again, in mortar)
- 1 T unrefined salt
- 1 t coarsely ground pepper
- 2 pods cardamom (crushed in mortar) (or ¼ t ground)
- 1 T ground cinnamon
- 2 cloves (crushed in mortar) (or ¼ t ground)
- ¼ C EVOO
- 2 C white wine
- 2 C lamb (or chicken) broth
- 3 T tomato paste
- 2 anchovies (they will disappear!)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 C peeled and large chopped turnips (about 2 large ones)
- 2 C peeled and large chopped carrots (about 5 large ones)
- 1 C chopped yellow onion
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced (2 T total at least)
- 4 T finely chopped parsley
- 1/2 C raisins (optional)
- 3 T butter, fresh herbs, grated lemon zest
- Rub neck with olive oil, then liberally apply dry rub. Let set for at least 3 hours in fridge or even overnight.
- Brown the neck in the olive oil or butter in your dutch oven.
Remove and set aside.
- Brown the turnips, carrots and onions in the same pot until shimmery and partially cooked. Add garlic for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
- Remove veg and set aside.
- Add neck back into the dutch oven with broth, wine, anchovies, tomato paste, and bay leaf. (Keep veg out for now.)
- Dutch oven–stove top or 325 degree oven for 2-3 hours.
- After the cooking, remove neck and take the meat off the bone. If not strippable, cook for a bit longer before next step.
- Once meat is off the bone (you may need to shred and chop it), add the sautéed vegetables and raisins (don’t forget those bad boys) and return to cook for 45 min to 1 hour. CLUE: meat must be succulently tender. If not, keep cooking! (Much will depend upon the size and characteristics of your cut.)
- When it is all done, add the butter to the pot and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve up in bowls, garnish with herbs and lemon zest.
Serve with options?
- A dollop of plain yogurt
- A sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds
- Nothing—a bowl is super tasty with some crusty bread
- Over Parmesan polenta or with some corn muffins
- A California zinfandel
- Apricot ale
- A spicy bitter greens salad
- Make with carrots, onions, celery, okra (or eggplant) and cooked garbanzos (instead of the turnips and raisins)
And remember (at least this pertains to our lambs)
The little lamb that contributed this neck worked so very hard to chomp off clover, rye grass, reed canary grass, rose bushes, aspen sprouts and bark, milk thistle, wormwood, elderberry bushes, willow sprouts, and service berry shrubs. She lived a wonderful life. Enjoy this meal knowing that you are honoring the entire animal, not just a prime cut usually only seen wrapped in plastic at your supermarket.