Saturday, December 22, 2007

Between Nose and Tail Eating

The Neck

Fergus Henderson, through his books and TV appeaarances has (at least) raised the foodie awareness towards odder parts of the animal. He extols not only the liver (usually salted) or the marrow bone (now famous). He pleads for you to try the parts at the extremes, say frying up an ear and including it in a salad. In this spirit, there is the neck.

Our organic, local lamb from Wettstein's farm had a neck. It gamely lowered its jaws to the ground so he (or she) could nibble and nosh in his (or her) short but happy life. It is a cut less used in American cooking. Joy speaks silent of its joys. Yet, there is was. Taking up a great use of our upstairs freezer. It became the centerpiece of our Shabbat meal.

There really is no way of cooking a neck beyond braising. That said, there is, I imagine after one neck preparation, no hard way to ruin a neck. A pan, some flavored liquid, some aromatics and time, time, time. It is a hunk of product, mostly bone and fat--and long solid bone. We had expected we could cut the neck into something approaching osso buco style steaks, but that bone is long and big. You need a band saw. Our neck bubbled away for about 3 hours with stock and assorted middle eastern style spices like cumin. Local red potatoes and not local green olives went in twenty minutes before the finish. Local (frozen) peas and local parsley went in at the final five minutes. It took a certain amount of poking and digging to get morsels of meat to feed the crowd. For that you get very rich, to some a bit too fatty, rich, soft, lamb meat.

If you do not have a lamb neck in your freezer, I do see them at Middle Eastern butchers like Sahar, 4829 N. Kedzie, Chicago.

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