Beer-Braised Lamb Neck with Mushroom Medley
One whole bone-in lamb neck (about 3 lbs), trimmed of excess fat
Two medium brown onions, sliced
Six cloves of garlic, sliced
8oz Crimini Mushrooms, cleaned and halved if large
6oz Hon-Shimeji Mushrooms
6oz Maitake Mushrooms
One 12oz bottle of dark ale (nothing too hoppy or spicy)
One cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
1 Tbsp chopped thyme
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
2 Tbps extra virgin olive oil
Kosher Salt + Pepper (to taste)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Liberally salt and pepper all sides of the lamb neck.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large (~5qt) enameled cast iron dutch oven.
Brown the lamb neck on all sides, turning to a new side every 4-5 minutes. When the neck is sufficiently browned on all sides, remove and set aside.
Pour off all but 2 Tbsp of the rendered lamb fat and return dutch oven to stove; lower heat to medium.
Add onions and garlic to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onions are just beginning to show color (about 8 minutes). Add the chopped herbs and anchovy paste. Stir to fully coat vegetables and sauté for 3 minutes more.
Pour half of the bottle of beer in to the mixture. Bring to a boil and use a rubber spatula to scrape any bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the dutch oven.
Return the lamb neck to the center of the pot. The wide base of the neck should be facing down, with the thick layer or fat facing up. Pack in mushrooms to fully surround the neck.
Add remaining beer and top off the mixture with chicken stock. The braising liquid should come about halfway up the neck.
Bring the mixture to a light boil, place lid on dutch oven, and transfer to the oven.
Bake covered for 3 hours, flipping the neck every 30-45 minutes
Once fully cooked, remove the pot from the oven and place on stove. Remove lamb neck and place on a cutting board. Strain the mushrooms and onions out of the braising liquid and set aside.
Use a fat separator to skim off excess lamb fat from the liquid. Return braising juices to the dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce by 1/3rd.
While braising liquid is reducing, carve meat from neck bone and discard any large chunks of fat or cartilage.
Add lamb meat, along with the reserved vegetables, back to the braising liquid.
Heat through briefly prior to serving.
Serve with simple buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, grits or polenta.
Pairs Well With
Growing up, I was an extremely picky eater with a very light appetite - my mother and father would have an incredibly difficult time getting me to eat full dinners. There was one meal, however, that I would always look forward to: my mother's pot roast. She would throw beef or lamb into the crockpot with whatever vegetables were on hand, and serve simply with mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. I have very strong childhood memories of loving these meals.
When I moved halfway across the country for college, I had a new issue affecting my ability to eat: I didn't know how to cook at all. My mother bought me a crock pot and taught me the basic techniques of braising. I would set meals up in the morning and go to campus, while the smell of meat slowly roasting drove my roommates wild. These meals really helped me get through a difficult engineering program with passing grades.
The following recipe is my own spin on a lamb braise, inspired by my mothers' pot roasts. This is the type of thing I will make for the family when we are all back together around the holidays, to pay my mother back for all the great meals she has fed me in the past.