It’s Spring and when it’s spring I see lambs frolicking in the pastures. And it makes me think of how good they will taste as lamb chops or lamb shank 😉 A part of lamb that is not as popular is the neck, but when prepared correctly it has a lot of flavor.
In Romagna, the region of Italy between Bologna and the Adriatic coast in the Po Valley, lamb is stewed with peas and pancetta in a tomato sauce. I really liked the sound of that, and so I gave it a try. I used lamb neck and cooked it sous-vide, but you can just as easily prepare this the traditional way. Cooking the lamb sous-vide will just make it more tender and especially more juicy. This is easy to make and it was delicious. Here’s what I did…
For 4 servings
600 grams (1.3 lb) lamb neck
60 grams (2 oz) pancetta
150 grams (1 cup) peas, fresh or frozen
60 ml (1/4 cup) sieved tomatoes (tomato puree, passata di pomodoro)
80 ml (1/3 cup) lamb stock
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp corn starch
Cut the pancetta into strips. Mince the garlic and the rosemary.
Cut the lamb neck into chunks and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta.
Stir until the pancetta is golden (but not crispy).
Add the garlic and rosemary, and stir for a few seconds.
Add the lamb.
Brown the lamb on all sides.
Add the lamb stock…
…and the sieved tomatoes.
Stir to incorporate. If you are preparing this the traditional way, cover the pan and cook over low heat until the lamb is almost tender. Then add the peas and continue to cook until they are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.
To go the sous-vide route, take the lamb out of the frying pan and put it on a plate to cool off. Reduce the sauce over medium low heat until it has been reduced to about two thirds.
Add the juices that will leak out of the lamb back to the sauce.
You can’t vacuum seal the meat with the sauce with a regular ‘clamp’ style vacuum sealer. You have two options:
With a chamber vacuum sealer, allow the meat and sauce to cool off and then vacuum seal.
Or use a ziplock bag and the water displacement method, in which case it is okay if everything is still warm.
Cook the lamb sous-vide for 24 hours at 57C/135F.
After the meat has finished cooking sous-vide, separate the meat from the sauce and set aside. Put the sauce in a frying pan and bring to a boil.
Add the peas…
…as well as a slurry made with 1 tsp corn starch and 2 tsp cold water.
Stir and cook until the corn starch has bound the sauce somewhat and the peas are tender.
Add the meat and stir just long enough over medium heat to warm the meat back up. (The whole point of cooking the meat sous-vide is to avoid the core of the meat to get hotter than 57C/135F, so make sure not to cook it for too long as otherwise the meat will end up dry after all.) Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve the meat with the sauce on preheated plates.
An outstanding choice with this dish is a Sangiovese di Romagna from the same region as the dish. The acidity of the sangiovese goes well with the tomatoes, and sangiovese from this region is a bit more mellow than it’s cousins Chianti, Brunnelo and Vino Nobile from the other side of the Appenines, and are thus more suitable for lamb.
This almond meringue cake with amarena cherries brings back memories of our visit to Ireland when Conor’s ‘Wife’ made a similar delicious cake with raspberries for us. Happy days!