The last time I made lamb necks, one of our comenters suggested using the leftovers to make a ragu, which sounded like a great idea, because:
1) Lamb necks are so rich and flavorful that they would make an excellent ragu, and
2) While Elizabeth makes a lot of really varied recipes on this blog, I like to do braises which make my posts all pretty similar. Season meat, brown it, add liquid, season liquid, bring to a boil, turn the heat down, wait, eat. This adds some steps, which gives me a little cred. And when you come down to it, isn’t cred what really counts in this life.
One great thing about this recipe is that you can really tailor it to the amount of meat you want to use. We make an effort to eat meat that was raised ethically and with minimal damage to the environment, and eating that way is expensive, which really makes you think about how and why you are eating meat. When you look at the way that people used to eat, meat was important, but it didn’t have to be the centerpiece of every meal. A ragu is an excellent way to use a relatively small amount of meat to make a really tasty and filling dish. That also makes it an excellent way to use leftovers.
Tomato and Lamb Neck Ragu
1 jar of tomatoes (if you can find them in a glass jar, it’s really preferable to a can)
1/2 to 1 lb. lamb necks (in this case, I probably had about 3/4 lb.)
dry red wine
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 sprigs thyme
Salt the lamb necks and brown them on all sides in a pot over high heat.
Remove the lamb, turn the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook for about five minutes.
Return the lamb, add the wine, thyme, and salt and pepper. Turn the heat to high until the wine starts to boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover.
Simmer for 3-4 hours, turning the lamb every so often, and adding more wine or water if the liquid starts to get low.
When the lamb is falling apart, remove it to a plate. Add the tomatoes, but not the juice they are in to the pot. Smash each tomato with your hands as you put it in. Turn the heat back to high until it is boiling and turn it to low, but don’t cover.
Shred the lamb either with your fingers or with a knife and fork, then add it to the tomato sauce. Cook for another 30-45 minutes. If it seems to thin, turn it up and let some of the liquid cook off.
Serve over pasta.