In the past we have brined and de-boned lamb necks to create uniform blocks and roulades of meat for braising. The procedure allows us to create succulent pieces of braised meat, easy for us to finish a la minute, and even easier for the diner to eat. The cleaning and manipulation of the protein is what I call front side work. We take more time in the beginning stages of working with ingredients so that in the end the components of a dish fit together like puzzle pieces that have been assembled hundreds of times.
What is interesting about focusing on front side work is that it forces you to look at ingredients differently. And occasionally that can be a bad thing because you can miss an opportunity or get stuck in a rut. Thankfully when I saw lamb necks at the green market I was able to get past my preconditioned approach and see new possibilities within the ingredient. I was looking at lamb, and noticed that the necks were cut into rounds. This would make our boning and rolling procedure more difficult and time consuming and so I was going to pass. As I began to put the lamb necks back I had an epiphany. The farmer had the lamb necks cut into rounds not to inconvenience me, rather the size and shape resembled the traditional osso bucco cut of a veal shank. The farmer was looking at the neck as a rustic cut which could be slow cooked and enjoyed as a braise. My personal front side approach was not even part of the play book. So I picked the package of lamb neck back up again and happily paid for the wonderful meat with a new perspective.
Now, the lamb is slowly braising and I am mulling over ways to serve them. While a traditional approach is sound, I believe there may be fresh angles to discover. It's all a matter of finding the right perspective.