According to the old maxim, “a good friend is someone who sends you meat in the mail”. Actually, that’s probably not an old maxim but something we made up other day in the kitchen at Le Pichet. However, if it were an old maxim, it’s ending would be “…but the person who sends you 10# of lamb neck in the mail is your best friend”.
I recently received a big bag or lamb necks in the mail from Stanley Purdue, who is a good friend of Le Pichet and Cafe Presse and a very good cook in his own right. Although his primary occupation is the Law, I don’t think I have ever known anyone as passionately interested in cooking, eating and exploring food as Stanley . He is now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. but still stays in touch and drops by to see us when he has the chance to be in Seattle.
Seems he is also very fired up about Talus Wind Ranch Heritage Meats, which is located 30 miles south of Santa Fe in a little town called Galisteo, NM. Talus Wind Ranch raises heritage breeds of sheep and turkeys, and, according to it’s website, produces natural meat using traditional, environmentally sustainable methods. It turns out the Talus Wind Ranch only sells in the Southwest, but Stanley was nice enough to send me some so I could give it a try. Thanks Stanley!
You can be forgiven if, when I mention lamb neck, a whole bunch of recipes don’t spring to mind. Neck meat is not commonly the center of a dish. Often, neck meat tends to end up in sausages or in ground meat. However, it is the sort of cut that gets cooks excited. Fatty, full of gelatine, wrapped around cartilaginous bones, it is an ideal cut for slow cooking. It also is strongly flavored; It tastes like I imagine mutton should taste (I don’t think I have ever had mutton, but I have had some pretty gamey lamb). If you are a person that likes lamb that tastes like lamb, neck is for you. For all these reasons, neck is also great in stock or in dishes that depend on flavorful stock, such as a pot au feu or soup.
I started off by using a neck and some odds and ends of lamb and beef that I had in the freezer to make a rich, lamb broth.
The lamb neck meat was tender and delicious after about 4 hours of gentle simmering, so I picked the neck clean and returned the flavor-rich vertebrae to the stock pot, which continued to simmer peacefully for another 4 hours.
Dinner Number One: Roasted Kabocha squash stuffed with a force meat made of ground pork, chopped lamb neck meat, onions, shallots, celery and garlic.
Simple but very satisfying. With a green salad and a bit of cheese afterwards, this tastes like January. With a Pierre Chermette Beaujolais.
Dinner Number Two: Lamb neck and pork caillettes served with a soup of rich lamb broth, spelt, winter squash, turnip greens and chard.
The rosy color of the broth comes from the stems of the chard. Caillettes are a sort of rustic meatball. In this case, I just baked the mixture in a little cast iron pot and then chilled it. It can be eaten cold with mustard or added to the soup.
Amazingly, both these dishes plus about a gallon of good quality lamb stock were made with only one lamb neck. As I have four necks left to play with, you may be sure that more dinners and more posts will follow.