A reader emailed me to see if I could recreate a meal they had out — a lamb’s neck stracotto from chi SPACCA (in Los Angeles). I was flattered to say the least, but me…I’m just a [highly inquisitive] home cook. When I googled the dish, it looked fantastic and got rave reviews, and so I was instantly intrigued (and wanted to hop on a plane to LA just to try the dish).
Wasn’t sure that I would be procure lamb’s neck, but just so happens, a week or two later, I came across lamb neck slices at a local farmers’ market. Fate, perhaps? Am always up for a challenge, so why not give it a try.
Lamb neck is considered scrap cut by most. In fact, the woman in line in front of me was buying some to cook for her dog (a well fed [lucky] dog, to say the least). As with any meat that you cook on the bone (e.g., oxtail, short rib), it’s extremely flavorful, not to mention inexpensive.
Since I wasn’t able to taste the aforementioned dish, I went with what I would do for any long braise — sear the meat, add the aromatics, red wine, and stock, and let it cook slowly, until fall-off-the-bone tender.
I cooked the lamb neck for a good two hours in the oven. It created the most scrumptious sauce, which I then reduced and drizzled over the meat. I served the lamb neck over fregola sarda (a Sardinian toasted pasta), which acts like a sponge to soak up the flavors (use Israeli couscous if you can’t find fregola).
Added thinly sliced preserved lemons (refer to this post for making preserved lemons), which added a really nice brightness to the dish. Garnish with chopped mint or parsley if you like.
The dish was delish, but I’m not sure if it resembles anything like the dish at chi SPACCA? Perhaps a starting off point for others to add their own spin.
And, thank you reader, for introducing me to lamb neck. Am now a big fan and will most definitely be incorporating this under-appreciated cut of meat into my cooking repertoire.
Pat the meat dry. Season liberally with salt and pepper….
Enjoy with an earthy red wine.
Braised Lamb Neck with Fregola Sarda
2 pounds of lamb neck (4 slices)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup carrot, medium dice
1/2 cup celery, medium dice
1/2 cup white onion, medium dice
5 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
8 ounces canned chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Preserved lemon peel, thinly sliced, for garnish
Chopped mint or parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a deep, heavy-based Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the lamb neck in a single layer and sear on both sides until well browned.
Remove the lamb neck, wipe the pan, and add more oil to coat. Add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the red wine and vinegar, and cook, stirring and scraping any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme and rosemary. Return the lamb neck to the pot, bring the liquid to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook, turning the lamb once, until fall-off-the-bone fork tender, about 2 hours.
Remove the lamb from the cooking liquid. Strain the liquid and add to a pot. Skim off any fat (my lamb neck had very little fat). Cook over medium-high heat until somewhat reduced and becoming thicker and more flavorful.
Serve the lamb (2 slices per plate) over fregola sarda. Drizzle with the reduced sauce. Garnish with preserved lemon. Sprinkle with fresh mint or parsley.