Nape Crusaders

Neck is the new belly

Now that ears, cheeks and tongue are de rigueur on menus across the country, chefs looking to stay on the cusp of butcher cuts have to look past the head.

But not too far past: Right now, the neck–from both fowl and four-legged beasts–is the thing.

On larger animals, neck meat can be similar to shanks: It's well-marbled and braises well. Poultry napes have a chewy texture and do best fried or grilled, a preparation you'll often see at yakitori restaurants like Robataya in Los Angeles.

No matter how it's sliced, the neck is a full-flavored cut. Here are more examples:

Beef Josef Centeno, the chef-owner of the new Lazy Ox Canteen in Los Angeles, braises quartered necks in his brick oven for 10-plus hours, then serves them on the bone with potato puree and collard greens (pictured). "It's like the rib eye of braised meats," he says.

Pork At Lemongrass, the first Thai restaurant in a Las Vegas Strip resort, Bangkok-style slices of grilled pork neck come with an umami-rich tamarind dipping sauce.

Lamb Because it breaks down during low-and-slow cooking, lamb neck makes excellent rillettes at The Purple Pig in Chicago. At San Francisco's Incanto, chef Chris Cosentino serves slow-roasted hunks of lamb neck with polenta.

Goat As a part of the new "Offal Wednesdays" menu at Palate Food & Wine in Glendale, CA, chef Octavio Becerra stuffs tortellini with braised goat meat, then tops them with chanterelle mushrooms and goat's-milk butter.

Duck At New York's Trestle on Tenth, the crispy duck necks are a menu favorite: First braised, then rolled in bread crumbs and deep-fried, the meat is tender and sweet–like a chicken wing, only better.

Editor's note: Palate Food & Wine has since closed.