Lamb Neck Braised with Turnip and Sweet Potato

Lamb Neck Braised

Groceries are becoming incredibly expensive, especially meat. When I saw Safeway had lamb neck for only $3.49 a pound i decided to try it. I love the flavor of lamb but have mainly cooked shoulder roasts, shanks or chops. Being neck bones, I knew the meat would probably be tough, the more connective tissue there is, the tougher the meat tends to be. Neck bones are considered offal – the cheap cuts that are often neglected. Sometimes for good reason, but in this case, it turned out to be wonderful. So with tough meat, the trick is to cook low and slow, so I decided to braise it.

I preheated the oven to 300° Fahrenheit.

I put this big skillet on the stove with about 2 TBSP of olive oil and heated the oil. I added 2 pinches of cardamom and a pinch of cumin, 1 small chopped yellow onion and 2 diced gloves of garlic with a bit of salt and pepper.. When the onion was tender, I added the neck bones – about 2/3rds of a pound, added salt and pepper and browned them.

Meanwhile I scrubbed 2 carrots and cut them into big pieces (the more you chop up your carrots, the more nutrients leach out.) Then I chopped up 2 celery stalks. I peeled 1 turnip and 1 sweet potato and cut them into chunks as well. I added to the mix with some salt and pepper and stirred. Then I added 1 can of diced tomatoes and then filled the can with water and added that as well.

Then I popped in the oven and let cook slowly for what seemed like days but was only 2 hours. My apartment was redolent of the aroma of lamb, tomatoes, cardamom and all this goodness that the time passed slowly. But it was so worth the wait!

The turnip and cardamom really make this recipe, the tart sweetness of turnip was exactly what was needed to add a grace note to this hearty meal. The tomatoes and carrots added sweetness, the celery gave it an earthy base and the sweet potato added flavorful substance. It was so delicious I actually used my finger to clean the broth from the pan.

Please note that I added salt and pepper with each new step. The reason is that you should always season what you are cooking in the moment, adding the season again with new ingredients. Not only will it taste better, you are less likely to overseason it.

This made four servings of stew – and with just $2.09 worth of meat. Definitely a rich meal that is not costly. In fact, it’s only $1.42 per serving – excluding the cost of spices.

  • $2.09 Lamb
  • $1.69 Sweet Potato
  • $0.45 Turnip
  • $0.10 Carrot
  • $0.21 Celery
  • $0.32 Onion
  • $0.12 Garlic
  • $0.69 Diced Tomatoes

Lamb Tarragon Wine Sauce, Spinach Pasta and Slow-Roasted Asparagus

Lamb Tarragon Wine Sauce

I started water boiling for the pasta and preheated oven to 450. I cut the dried ends off the asparagus spears and put them in a shallow roasting pan with a bit of olive oil. I rolled them around to get the oil to coat the spears and sprinkled kosher salt on them and put them in the oven. When the water started boiling I added fresh spinach noodles (these are from Pastaworks) and began working on the sauce.

I put a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet, added 2 tbsp of sliced leeds and cooked a couple minutes. I added 1 clove of minced garlic and 2 tsp of dried tarragon and 1 tsp of dry mustard and cooked a bit more. I took 3.5 ounces of lamb sausage and broke it up into the skillet and let it cook. While it cooked I sliced 5 mushrooms and 1 small tomato. I added them after the meat had browned. By then the pasta was done and I strained it into a colander. Putting it back in the pan, I added a bit of my cooking juice and stirred it in so it didn’t get sticky.

Back to the sauce, I added a splash of white wine (about 4 TBSP) and put the lid on a minute. I then plated the pasta, ladled some sauce on and pulled the asparagus out of the oven – perfectly done and added them to the plate.  I squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on the asparagus. The lamb sauce on the pasta has a lovely savory taste with a bit of heat from the mustard and beautiful freshness from the tarragon. That dash of lemon juice was a perfect complement to the asparagus, offsetting the olive oil and salt splendidly.

The asparagus was not literally slow-roasted. I just forgot to turn the oven on at first.

Lemon Brown Butter on Mushroom Ravioli with Lamb Sausage Burger and Salad

There were Fresh Mushroom Ravioli discounted at Nature’s so I picked up a package and decided that something so delicious needed a sauce that showcased the flavor of the ravioli instead of struggling with it for dominance. For almost anything that you know has that rich, fresh flavor of good food and good ingredients, brown butter is a perfect foil and it’s about as easy as anything to make.

For this meal, I started water boiling for the ravioli and put the lamb sausage burger on the skillet. The burger is prepared by the butcher at Nature’s and they’re very tasty and I always pick up one or two when they are on sale. When the water began to boil, I added the ravioli and flipped the burger.

Fresh pasta cooks quickly so I immediately went to work on the salad. I tore some red butter lettuce leaves, tossed on a tablespoon or so of feta and a bit of Greek Vinaigrette salad dressing. I added some tasty olives on the side and the pasta was done. I drained it in a colander and using the pan I made it in (because it is light in color, not dark) I tossed 2 TBSP of butter in for the Brown Butter.

All brown butter consists of is butter than you cook until it browns – about 1.5 minutes for a small amount like this. You swirl the butter constantly so it doesn’t separate too much. When it’s brown it will have a lovely hazelnut flavor. However, I wanted to lighten it up a bit so I squeezed half a lemon in the butter. Then I put the ravioli back in the pan and swirled it around. The burger was done, so everything wrapped up together perfectly.

Lubia

Lubia ia a fantastic stew made of lamb, tomatoes and green beans. Greece and Lebanon both claim it as their own and who am I to argue with either one. Wherever it comes from, it’s yummy goodness.

  • Lamb Shank (approximately 1 pound)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 4 whole cloves garlic
  • 10 roma romatoes (or equivalent of other tomatoes)
  • 1.5 pounds of green beans, fresh or frozen
  • 2 TBSP turmeric
  • 1 TBSP oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
This is one of the simplest soups. Soften some onions and garlic in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the turmeric and oregano. Add the lamb shank and sear the outside. Add water until the shank is nearly covered. Trim the top of the tomato and add to the pot in big chunks. Romas cut in half, larger tomatoes in quarters. Bring to a rolling boil. Cover and let simmer for an hour. Pull out the lamb shank and cut the meat off the bone (it should slip right off) and cut into cubes. Put back in the pot. Add green beans. Cover and cook for 15 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Makes about 30 cups of soup for 30 1 cup servings. Freezes well.

Gyros Burger & Greek Salad

This is embarrassingly easy. New Seasons sells a fresh gyros lamb sausage. I bought 5 ounces and fried it in a burger shape on the skillet. For the bun, I combined three of the raw English Muffin dough pieces I had stored in the fridge and cooked on a griddle 10 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other. The sauce is 2 TBSP of plain yogurt, 1 TBSP of feta cheese, 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of garlic powder and some salt and pepper. A one-minute sauce reminiscent of tsatziki.

The sald is made from three leaves of romaine, 1/2 ounce of feta, 6 olives, 1/4 of a Roma tomato and one green onion sliced finely. I added 1 TBSP of Greek-Feta Vinaigrette.