Lamb is wonderful meat, but it tends to be pricey, too, especially when it’s pastured (which is of course the only kind we eat). One solution is to buy in quanitity; I’ll be getting a half animal in the near future. Another option is to learn one’s way around the less expensive cuts. One of the most interesting of these is the neck, which makes wonderful stews and braises. Its appearance lends itself to osso buco-type treatments, and it can fill in handsomely for oxtail, too. What’s important is to give it the slow cooking that it needs to get tender.
Since I have a water bath, I was able to give it a long, slow cook without ever having it get beyond medium rare. And as it sat in the 54˚C/130˚F water it also soaked up the herbs, pepper, salt, and garlic that I put in the bag along with it so that when I finally cut it open, the smell was sublime. After a good hard sear in a hot pan to maillardify them, I put the pieces on top of some puréed sweet potato (steamed and blended with a bit of the cooking water, salt, and a grate of nutmeg) along with a dollop of some garlicky olive-yogurt tapenade. I made a quick pan sauce with a splash of wine and whisked in a pat of butter to thicken it.
Apart from how satisfying this was, the bones and trimmings made an unbelievable stock in concert with the bones from last post’s fried chicken. I’ve been using it since, including in some excellent risotto last night. There are good reasons to make stock the traditional way, but honestly I often prefer the results when I make stock using leftover bones; the various flavors that infuse them can make for pretty intense and wonderful notes in a stock that add depth and subtlety to everything they go into. And nothing is wasted. Also, I wasn’t sure whether to title this post “Osso Necko” or “Necko Buco.” It took me a while to decide. Do you see how hard I work for you?