Osso Necko

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?

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  1. January 12

    We appreciate your wordsmithing and the hand-wringing that goes with it. Vicariously, of course.

    fwiw, sheep fortunately are creatures of the pasture…they cannot abide eating out of a trough, so you’re more or less guaranteed to get grass-fed and then winter hay-fed if you get ’em at all. And also fortunately, boy lambs are born as often as girls are and sheep peeple don’t need them all, thus, you can osso all the lamb or mutton you want. Contacting farms directly might save you some shekels too. And if you get a half you’ll need to figure out what to do with it all, so thanks for showing us this luvly meal.

    • Jenny
      January 13

      Unfortunately, this is not the case in the US. There is lots of feedlot produced lamb. I used to think all lamb was at least on pasture…until I met a few producers in person who raise ALL their lamb INSIDE…only the mothers have access to pasture after the lambs are weaned…at about 2-3 weeks of age.

    • Peter
      January 13

      I’m buying mine from a local farm. Everyone else should do the same. Eatwild is a good resource, and I have yet to find a farmer at a weekly market who won’t make a deal for a whole or half beast.

  2. January 12

    The plating with the orange squash is really pretty and I’m half Irish so anything lamb makes my mouth water. Interesting that the slow cooking in the water bath tenderized the meat without cooking it to well done. A bonus. For those of us without the water bath, I guess it would have had to be well done, but still delish.

  3. January 12

    Lovely wordsmithing and recipe. Just reading the title I thought, “Does that mean he cooked the necks?” Who would have thought. Tis the season for the braise!

  4. January 12

    oh, and I hadn’t kept up reading the posts and just went back a few. I’m a little late with this, but sorry to hear about your kitty.

  5. January 13

    Osso Necko sounds better. This looks and sounds fabulous, i love tender meat that has been cooked slowly.. this is the real way to eat meat!

  6. Jenny
    January 13

    This looks absolutely FABULOUS! Now I am regretting having my goat neck cut into stew meat.

  7. Peter
    January 13

    Zoomie: That’s the essence of sous vide: slow-cooked and still pink.

    Rachel: Thanks. It is very much braise season, and I love it.

    Annie: The only thing better is rare AND slow-cooked. It’s the best of both worlds.

    Jenny: There will be a next time, won’t there? In the meantime, lamb stew is wonderful. Have you tried a tagine with prunes and olives?

  8. Marianne
    January 14

    Wow. looks great…I have been lurking but not commenting on you blog for awhile. If you have any other neat things you like to use lamb with..I would love to hear them, We are starting to raise HairSheep for meat(personal use) they are smaller and less fatty than wool sheep…….

  9. January 16

    I prefer the way Osso Necko rolls off the tongue.
    As always, your meat looks totes nummers…

    And dude. Sorry to hear about your cat.

  10. Peter
    January 16

    Marianne: Well, it depends on the cut, but lamb pretty much always works with olives, woody herbs, and Moroccan spices. If the meat is leaner, then cook it rarer or longer.

    Brinney: All those “books” you’re reading have done wonders for your vocabulary.

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