Last winter, I ventured into the neck territory of cuisine with a great amount of deliciousness and last week alluded to the neck again. I had acquired the neck attached to the mutton’s head made into a terrine and went back to the lamb post to read up how I cooked the younger neck, but I wanted to switch up the cooking method. While I usually detest terms like “crowdsourcing”, a reader commented about his experiences cooking lamb necks at Incanto and provided a synopsis of a how to.
As Incanto is a wonderland for my tastes and Collins was nice enough to lead me down the path, I “crowdsourced” the hell out of the mutton neck. While it is not customary for me to detail weeknight dinners, I wanted to start a new feature on this blog with cooking “butcher’s cuts” as an example of how having a great butcher will open your eyes to new and delicious meals. I would describe butcher’s cuts as a cut that is not typically found shrink wrapped at the supermarket or even in the case at your Whole Foods. Think of it this way, ten years ago, you would have never found pork belly, lamb breast, or short ribs in the grocery case, but yesterday I walked past all three in the same case at the Kingsbury Whole Foods.
This entry is also an example of why I love the comments that I get here and how I’d love to get more ideas of the cool food projects you, as readers, have done.
This mutton neck was sourced from Slagel Farms through the Butcher and Larder. The size was bigger than the lamb neck, but not by a margin that I would have expected. I knew that mutton may carry a slightly gamier flavor than lamb as it is a more developed animal, but I love lambiness, so that was no deterrant in this case and that the texture would be less tender, which given the cooking method also was not going to deter me.
To start, a few days before cooking, I salted the neck and added chopped greenery (fennel, parsley, mint, and rosemary) and let the neck cure uncovered in the fridge until meal day. Around lunch time, I tossed the neck in a casserole in a low oven (275 degrees), covered, for 5-6 hours. About 4 hours in, I squeezed a half lemon over the mutton. With about an hour to go until dinner, I cranked the heat to 450 and roasted the neck until the outside was crispy.
The neck was sauced with a quick emulsified salsa verde. I typically like a looser salsa verde as I served with the smoked lamb shoulder in September, but in a pinch, using a blender as I did, will do and will give you an emulsified sauce. The layer of fat on the outside had turned into crispy, molten mutton flavored burnt ends and the interior was melty and tender. The meat, after resting for 10 minutes, was easily separated from the spine and served with baby kale braised in vinegar, chiles, and garlic and turnips. The burnt ends feature is the likely advantage over the “braise and blast” technique and I can assure you that I would go through this entire process for a forkfull of these burnt ends. The remainder is delicious as well, but the crispy edges with the molten center will blow your mind.