Ruth Reichl posited that lamb neck will be the pork belly of 2010, and indeed, it’s turning up on menus with increasing frequency, including cooked alla cacciatora at Danny Meyer’s new Maialino. It may be having its moment, but it’s one of those humble cuts that people have actually been eating forever, and it’s just as easy to cook as any tough hunk of meat that needs nothing more than a long braise to taste great–fine grained and sweetly musky.
At Monday’s Union Square Greenmarket, Uphill Farm from Clinton Corners, New York, was selling whole lamb necks, already neatly tied into roast-shapes for cooking, for $11 a pound. A two-pound roast will easily feed four to six people. We cooked it as a simple pot roast, with red wine and carrots. Read on to get the recipe.
Lamb Neck Pot Roast with Red Wine and Carrots
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
The carrots are cut into large chunks so that they can braise along with the meat, absorbing the juices, without getting too overcooked. However, this does result in very soft carrots, so if you prefer firmer carrots, add them to the pot after the meat has already cooked for about 1 hour. This is very good served over polenta. You could also use mashed potatoes or buttered noodles.
1 (2-3 pound) lamb neck, tied into a compact, uniform cylinder for even cooking
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
7 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into 3-inch chunks
1 1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup beef or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, and season the lamb generously with salt. In a large dutch oven over high heat, warm the oil. Brown the lamb well on all sides, about 15-20 minutes in all, and remove the meat from the pan.
Lower the heat to medium, and add the onion and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes more. Add the red wine, and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Add the stock, and continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes. If you are using canned broth, taste the braising liquid, and add a small pinch of salt if it tastes bland. If you are using homemade broth, season with a generous pinch of salt. In either case, season generously with freshly ground pepper.
Add the bay leaves and herbs to the liquid, and return the meat to the pot. Cover with a lid, and place the pot in the oven. After about 20 minutes, check that the liquid is not bubbling too vigorously: It should be simmering gently. Adjust the heat if necessary. Braise for about 2 1/2 hours, until tender.
Remove the meat from the pan, and tent with foil to let rest. Remove the celery and bay leaves from the pot, and discard. Skip any visible fat off the top of the liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil briefly on the stove top, to reduce to the desired consistency. Serve the pot roast in slices, with the sauce and carrots poured over.