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They Feel Good About Their Necks

An unfamiliar cut is showing up on local menus, prompting the question: Is neck the new cheek?

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In their constant quest to utilize every part of the beast—and to keep food costs down—chefs have historically turned their creative attention to the offcuts, the nasty bits, the calf’s brains and pig’s feet and everything in between. Thanks to scrap-meat enthusiasts like Mario Batali and London’s Fergus Henderson, no truly sophisticated modern diner would look askance at an oxtail or a duck tongue these days. Recently, though, an upstart animal part has been making its debut on menus around town. The neck, in all its bony, low-yield, tough but flavorful glory, seems made for the kind of long, slow cooking needed to extract the most flavor from the hardest-working muscles. Gordon Ramsay has long been a fan and serves a lamb cutlet with braised neck at his posh London Bar. Maremma’s Cesare Casella offers an occasional special of peposo, a Tuscan stew made with beef neck. Mexicans use meaty pork-neck bones in posole, and it’s also used in Japan, where Momofuku Noodle Bar chef-partner Dave Chang first encountered pork-neck ramen. But it’s not just chefs who recognize the cut’s potential. “Lamb neck is fantastic,” says Jessica Applestone, co-owner of Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, New York. “It has an incredible fat cap and makes the best stew meat.” Karen Weinberg, co-owner of 3-Corner Field Farm in Shushan, New York, started selling sliced lamb neck three or four years ago when French customers requested it at her Greenmarket stand. “Now it’s caught on so much, we sell out every time,” she says. Tìa Pol’s Alex Raij doesn’t use the cut herself—yet—but she does admit to a mild case of neck envy. “I feel really resourceful when I use cuts like that,” she says. “Something that gets its value from the time and effort you put into it.” And then there’s the offcut cachet: At Del Posto, Mark Ladner serves gnocchi with lamb-neck ragù, partly because neck “has an incredible amount of flavor,” but also because he likes the way it sounds on the menu. The sauce is actually made mostly from lamb shoulder, but to the jaded New York diner hungry for the next new cut, that might seem kind of boring.


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