Lamb Necks Make Great Winter Braises
I stepped up to the counter at Dickson's Farmstand Meats and said to the white-coated butcher, "It's a cold day. I want to braise the hell out of something."
"I was going to buy some of those humongous beef short ribs," I continued, "but convince me to buy something else."
He cleared his throat, and tilted his head to one side, before he brightened up and replied: "How about the lamb necks? I like them much better than shanks. They have a stronger flavor that stands up to braising better."
I was getting enthusiastic, too. I was making a dinner for a pregnant friend, and I knew that she was craving meat. I ended up buying nearly four pounds worth (each neck weighs about two pounds), and the butcher split them crosswise to make them easier to handle. Then he gave me a couple of sage pieces of cooking advice. "You want to braise those in white rather than red wine, because the meat is flavorful enough on its own. And to make the braising gravy even lighter, add some lemon juice and a little lemon zest."
I followed the butcher's advice, and braised the two necks on the stovetop for about four hours in a big covered pot, keeping the flame low, and checking once in a while that the fluid hadn't all boiled away. I'd also piled in a couple of onions, some shallots, a single garlic clove, and some stray carrots and stalks of celery to give the sauce even more flavor.