Braised Lamb Neck with Squash-Seed Risotto
Recipe adapted from Sean Brock, Husk, Charleston, South Carolina
Yield: Serves 4
Cook Time: 7 hours
Braised Lamb Neck
1 large lamb neck (about 2½ pounds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
4 cups chicken stock
2 medium sweet onions, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
3 large carrots, coarsely chopped (about 1½ cups)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4 celery ribs--cleaned, leaves discarded and cut in 1-inch pieces
8 thyme sprigs
1 fresh bay leaf
1 medium orange, cut into quarters
1 Bosc pear, cored and cut into quarters
5 medium yellow squash (about 4½ pounds)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
5½ to 6 cups vegetable stock, warmed and divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1½ cups Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice Grits (or regular yellow grits)
½ cup dry white wine
1 fresh bay leaf
½ medium lemon, juiced and zested
¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 marjoram sprigs, stem discarded and leaves finely chopped
1. Make the lamb neck: Preheat the oven to 350°. Season the lamb necks with salt and pepper and coat them with the flour. Set a large, heavy roasting pan over high heat. Add enough canola oil so it comes ¼-inch up the side of the pan. Add the necks, cook for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to medium-high. Carefully brown the necks on all sides. Remove them from the pan and reserve.
2. Discard the canola oil from the roasting pan. Add the Cabernet Sauvignon and increase the heat to high. Scrape the bottom of the pan to dislodge any browned bits. Bring the wine to a boil and cook it until reduced by half, about 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the chicken stock, bring the liquid to a simmer and cook until reduced by a fourth, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove the roasting pan from the heat, place a flat rack in the pan and place the lamb neck on the rack. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it in the oven. Cook for 1½ hours, then remove the pan and add the onion, carrots, garlic, celery, thyme, bay leaf, orange and pear. Keep the pan uncovered and continue to cook until the meat pulls away easily when a knife is inserted next to the bone, about 1½ hours.
4. Carefully remove the lamb neck and set it aside to rest in a baking pan to catch any juices. Strain the braising liquid and remove any fat from the top. Allow the liquid to cool, skimming the fat as it rises to the top. This will take a couple of hours. Carefully remove the meat from the bones, keeping the meat as intact as possible. Discard the bones. When all of the fat has been removed from the braising liquid, pour it over the lamb, cover and refrigerate overnight.
5. The next day, remove the lamb from the pan and divide it into four portions, keeping the pieces as whole as possible. Place a clean roasting pan on the stove over high heat and add the braising liquid. Bring this liquid to a light simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, skimming fat as it rises, for 20 minutes until the liquid reduces and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and return it to the pan. Add the four portions of lamb, bring the liquid to a light simmer and baste the meat with it as the meat heats.
6. Make the squash-seed risotto: Preheat the oven to 400°. Place a flat rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub the outside of the squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt. Place the squash on the rack and roast for 1 hour, until very soft and mushy. Cool the squash at room temperature until you can handle them. Carefully slice the squash open and scoop out the seeds. Remove any stringy pieces from the seeds and set aside.
7. Place the remaining meat of the squash and ½ cup of the vegetable stock in a blender and combine until very smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
8. In a large saucepot set over low heat, warm the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil together. Add the shallot and garlic and cook slowly, stirring continuously, until they are softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the rice grits and stir until the grits begin to toast and smell nutty, about 4 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium, add the white wine and slowly cook it, stirring gently, until almost dry, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved squash purée and cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture comes to a simmer, about 3 minutes.
9. Add ½ cup of the hot stock and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed. Continue cooking and adding ½ cup of hot stock at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next. Add the bay leaf after the third addition of stock. When the grits are al dente, after about 25 or 30 minutes, take the pot off the heat and gently add the squash seeds. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, cheese and marjoram and stir to combine. Serve immediately with the lamb neck.
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