A Hamburger Today

The Nasty Bits: Beef Neck

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This column is over two years old but not once have I talked about beef neck. A sorry lapse since I've written about lamb's neck, pork neck, turkey necks, even venison neck.

One of these days I'm going to sit down and categorize every internal organ and external part I've written about. It's on the to-do list, right after organizing my spice cabinet and filling out a stack of rebate forms.

Anyway, beef neck. It's worth seeking out.

It has the tendons you'll find in oxtail but costs less because it's less trendy. It's just as tender though somewhat less fatty than oxtail.

You might not think of beef neck as a summertime food since, like oxtail, it requires a lengthy simmering to become tender. And right you would be, if you're talking about making a stewed meat and potatoes dish that calls for the usual mix of onions, carrots, celery, herbs, spices, and deglazed wine sauce. That does add up to a lot of tending to a hot stove.

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But if you rethink the purpose of your simmered beef neck and make it a component in something else, much of that stovetop work goes away. You don't need to brown and deglaze, you don't need a wine sauce, you just need the meat to be tender.

And here's the thing: if you put a forgiving piece of meat such as beef neck into a pot with water and simmer it, you're barely cooking. All you have to do is put the beef neck in the pot with water and salt, throw in some bay leaves, oregano, chilies, and turn the heat on low. You're not really cooking, you're just, well, applying heat to meat.

Tacos is one such use for simmered meat. Whip up a salsa, get a stack of tortillas and some cheese ready, and in no time you'll be eating a juicy cut of beef with fresh vegetables and dairy all in one.

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