Zaatar Lamb

This is a recipe that features an underutilized and inexpensive cut of lamb: the neck.  The lamb is cooked in a sauce of the middle eastern spice blend zaatar, dates, white wine, chicken stock, and onion.  Braising this cut takes some time, but you're rewarded with a rich, lovely piece of meat.

yields two plates

Yogurt Mint Sauce:

can make in advance

  • 1 C whole fat plain yogurt
  • 1 T mint chiffonade
  • 2 C finely diced cucumber
  • 1/4 t sumac

Combine all ingredients; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Braised Lamb Neck:

  • 2 pieces of lamb neck approx 1.5 lb: sometimes labeled as lamb neck slices, look for a good amount of meat on the bone, and nice marbling
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 T zaatar
  • 1/2 white onion minced
  • 6 pitted dates finely chopped
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 1 1/2 C chicken stock
  • 2+ C water

Add oil to cast iron dutch oven, and set to medium-high heat.  Pat-dry lamb and season with salt and pepper.  Sear lamb on all sides until a good crust is formed on the meat (approx. 8 minutes); remove lamb from dutch oven and set aside.  Turn heat down to medium.  Add onions and dates to dutch oven, season.  Stir and cook until onions are translucent.  Add white wine; stir to loosen any charred fats at the bottom of the pan.  Cook for about 1 minute, until wine has reduced.  Add zaatar, chicken stock, and 2 C of water to dutch oven.  Place lamb back into pot, lamb should be about halfway submerged.  Cover pot and reduce heat to medium low, reduce heat further if necessary to achieve a soft simmer.  Check lamb in about 30 minutes to see if water needs to be added and if the lamb is still at a simmer.  Allow lamb to cook for another 2 hours (2.5 hours total), checking liquid and heat level periodically.  After 2.5 hours, set the dutch oven's lid ajar.  Cook for a final 15-30 minutes, until desired doneness.  Set lamb necks and 4 T of pan drippings aside until ready to serve. 

Parsley Rice:

start rice about 45 minutes before serving.

  • 1/2 C chopped parsley
  • 1/4 C + 2 C water
  • 1/4 C lemon juice
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1 C long grain rice, rinsed
  • 1 T butter

Add parsley, 1/4 C of water, lemon juice, and olive oil to a high-speed blender.  Blend until parsley oil is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  This makes about 1/2 C of parsley oil, 2 T of the oil is needed for this recipe.  

Place 2 cups of water, butter, and salt in a medium non-stick saucepan.  Heat on high until water is boiling.  Add rice and stir.  Turn heat down to low and cover.  After about 15 minutes: remove lid, and stir in 2 T of parsley oil.  Continue to cook on low until rice is cooked (about 3 more minutes).  Season with salt to taste.


When ready to serve: place lamb necks on a sizzler plate or baking sheet, top with pan drippings and re-heat and caramelize under broiler; careful not to burn.

On a large dinner plate spoon yogurt mint sauce in a "C" shape around what will be the edge of your rice.  Spoon parsley rice directly into middle of the plate, keeping some of the yogurt sauce exposed.  Place lamb neck directly on top of rice and spoon on any drippings.  Garnish with chopped parsley, flaky salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Use a microplane to zest a lemon directly on top of meat.


cocktail: Charred Lemon Gin & Tonic


beer: Get a gueuze.  This tart, musty, sour style of beer is a pretty perfect pairing with this dish.  The acidity of the lambic cuts through the fat, and mirrors the touch of lemon zest.  The funky, musty yeast compliments the gaminess of the meat.  Not into sours? a nice farmhouse saison would be nice as well.  Some beers to look for: Cantillon Gueuze, Oude Beersel Oude Gueuze, or Oude Gueuze Tilquin.