Artichokes are served with mint in Rome as carciofi alla romana and lamb is often served with mint. So it is the mint that provided the inspiration for this dish. Instead of neck of lamb you could also use leg of lamb, but the neck is more economical and has more flavor. If you cook it sous-vide, it will be at least as tender as leg of lamb, but more flavorful. Artichokes are also more flavorful if cooked sous-vide. This is a dish with a short list of ingredients but a lot of flavor.
When I buy neck of lamb, I usually buy a large amount and cook everything sous-vide at 57C/135F for 24 hours. Then I freeze what I don’t need right away, as it can be thawed and reheated in the sous-vide in an hour or so (and can be reheated in less than half an hour if you move it from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before).
For 4 servings
600 grams (1.3 lb) neck fillet of lamb
1 garlic clove, minced
4 Tbsp fresh minced mint leaves
250 ml (1 cup) lamb stock
extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cornstarch
Season the neck fillets with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and vacuum seal them.
Because we will be cooking for a long time below 60C/140F, it is important to dip the lamb in boiling water after vacuum sealing to kill any lactobacillus. If you don’t do this, the lamb may develop an unpleasant smell.
About 20 seconds in boiling water is enough, just long enough for the lamb to lose its raw color.
Take it out of the boiling water, and cook it sous-vide for 24 hours at 57C/135F.
Clean the artichokes, making sure to peel away enough of the tough leaves so only tender leaves are left. You can find a step by step explanation of how to clean artichokes here. If the artichokes are large and the leaves are tough, you may want to discard all of the leaves (as in the artichoke salad recipe).
Cut each artichoke in quarters and then each quarter in quarters again, so you end up with 16 wedges out of each artichoke.
Fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze half of a lemon into it. (It appears to be an Italian tradition to then put the squeezed lemon in the bowl as well.) Keep the cleaned artichokes in the water with lemon juice to prevent discoloration of the artichoke.
Mince the garlic and half the mint (2 tablespoons).
Drain the artichokes, then put them in a bowl with the garlic and mint.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then stir to mix.
Vacuum seal the artichokes.
Cook sous-vide for 1 hour at 85C/185F. If you don’t have multiple sous-vides (I have 4 by now), you could cook the artichokes before cooking the lamb, store it in the refrigerator, and then reheat with the lamb.
When the lamb has finished cooking, take it out of the sous-vide. Reserve the bag juices in a bowl.
Dry the lamb well with paper towels.
Sear the lamb on all sides in olive oil over high heat.
Once the lamb has been nicely browned on all sides, take it out of the pan and allow to rest in aluminum foil while you finish the sauce.
Add a teaspoon of cornstarch to the juices from the lamb cooked sous-vide. Adding the cornstarch will prevent the juices from coagulating when you add them to the hot pan.
Pour any leftover oil from the pan you used to sear the lamb. Deglaze the pan with the lamb stock.
Stir the juices from the sous-vide bag until well mixed with the cornstarch…
…and then add the mixture to the pan with the lamb stock.
Allow the sauce to reduce until nice and thick. When the thickness is to your liking, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Slice the lamb and arrange it with the artichokes and sauce on preheated plates. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of minced mint.
This is nice with an elegant red such as a pinot noir or a medium-bodied cabernet sauvignon. We are not looking for a blockbuster of a cab here. Some of the more elegant cabs from California, Chile or Médoc have a hint of mint in the nose and would be perfect for this.
The ravioli of Dorgali are stuffed with local pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese) and fresh mint, and served with a sausage and tomato ragù.