Lamb or Goat Neck Confit
Confit, or highly seasoned meat cooked slowly in it’s own fat, is a classic French method of meat preservation dating back to times before we had refrigerators and freezers to preserve meat for the winter. The fat, and gentle cooking gives some of the most tender, succulent meat possible, which is why it’s still relevant and useful today, even though preserving meat outside of refrigeration, or in a cold root cellar, isn’t a necessity. If you’re at all familiar with confit, you’ll definitely want to try Lamb or goat neck confit.
Certain cuts of meat are preferable for making confit. In a perfect world, you want to use cuts best for slow cooking, things with lots of connective tissue and intramuscular fat-the hard working muscles. With lamb, goat, and other ruminants like venison, shoulder is one of the best, and most commonly used cuts for confit, but neck is just as good, and is often an overlooked cut of meat.
After cooking in fat, confit was typically cooked again with beans or in stews, or made into rillettes, a sort of spreadable, shredded meat pate. Now days, chefs (and home cooks) serve confit in all kinds of ways, but some of the classic ways are still the best.
If you look online, making confit can be intimidating as it calls for a lot of rendered tallow. Rendered tallow will give confit with the deepest flavor, but originally the meat was cooked in tallow or lard since it would solidify after cooking, and form an air tight seal. If you’re making confit at home, and don’t have access to animal fats, it’s perfectly fine to substitute some cooking oil along with some animal fat, or in a pinch, even just oil, just don’t brag about it to a chef from France.
Another thing to consider with confit is exactly how much salt to use. Saying something like “season the meat liberally” can mean different things to different people, but using a scale to weigh the salt removes any sort of guesswork, and possible over-salting. Chef Bergo has made confit for years, out of many different animals. He recommends from 1.5% salt by weight. To find out how much to season our lamb neck, we take the weight in ounces, and convert it to grams. Our neck was 2.5 lbs, or 1120 grams. 1120 grams x .015 is 17 grams, or 1 heaping tablespoon of kosher salt.
After the confit is cooked, Chef Bergo recommends letting it sit under the lard for at least a few days, but it can be eaten right away. It’s excellent on top of cooked white beans and wilted greens, or save it to make lamb rillettes!
This recipe is by chef Alan Bergo. A chef from Minnesota, Alan is a veteran of the culinary industry, former executive chef of acclaimed Lucia’s Restaurant, and the Salt Cellar. Founder of the website Forager Chef, he’s best known as a respected authority on Midwestern foraging. Learn more about Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at Forager Chef.
Yield: Serves 4 as an entrée
- 1 lamb neck or goat neck, about 2.5 lbs
- Rendered lamb tallow, or whatever animal fat is available
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- Small sprig of fresh rosemary
- 17 grams of kosher salt, or 1 heaping tablespoon
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Season the neck all over with the salt, then allow to rest overnight.
- The next day, rinse the neck quickly under water to remove excess salt, then place in a pot with the remaining ingredients, completely covering the neck with lard.
- Cover and bake the lamb neck at 250 for 3 hours, or until the meat moves freely from the bone. Remove the pot from the oven and cool. Discard the herbs and spices.
- From here, if you used lard or tallow, you can transfer the lamb neck to a container and refrigerate it for months as long as the meat is completely covered by fat. If you used oil, you’ll want to use the confit within a week.
Lamb or Goat Rillettes
Rillettes are one of Chef Bergo’s favorite things to make with finished confit, it’s a sort of rustic pate or spread that goes well with anything. You can make the rillettes with any type of confit, from any cut on the animal. It’s a very traditional recipe to make with confit, typically lamb shoulder is used.
- 1 confit lamb or goat neck per recipe above
- 1/4 cup finely diced shallots
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup melted butter or lard
- First clean the lamb neck. Pull the meat from the bone, then discard the bones and any connective tissue. From a 2.5 lb neck, you should end up with about 2 cups of packed meat, or 1 lb.
- Meanwhile, cook the shallots in the vinegar until the pan is dry.
- Transfer the meat to the bowl of a stand mixer, add the thyme and shallots, then slowly work the meat, slowly drizzling in the fat until it’s completely absorbed.
- Taste the mixture, it should be well seasoned, but if you think it could use a little more of something, add it.
- The rillettes should be smooth and spreadable, but they will firm up when chilled. They’ll last in the fridge for 3-4 days in the fridge, but can be stored for months if they’re packed into a container and covered with a layer of lard to act as a seal, such as in a mason jar. Serve with crusty bread, mustard and pickles, or as part of a charcuterie plate.