I was given a young buck this year, my first to butcher myself, and I’ve been eyeing the neck ever since I vacuum-sealed it and put it in the freezer.
Neck, in my (and many chef’s) opinions, can be one of the most tender, flavorful cuts on any larger-sized creature. That being said, I get a little miffed when I see people post pictures of deer or other animals being trimmed that have the neck and head cut off at the shoulder. I mean, c’mon, it really isn’t that difficult to pull the fur down to the chin and expose the neck when you’re skinning something.
If you’ve ever loved the tenderness of a good pot-roast, and the mouth-watering, melted collagen (sounds wierd but it’s true) that goes along with slowly cooked, braised meat, you’ll do backflips for neck. As a bonus, necks, if they’re boned out, will come in a neat, semi-flat form, that begs to be stuffed, rolled, braised and sliced, showing off a nice spiraled cross-section when cut, as well as reducing the cooking time for them to be tender.
To show how much fun necks are, I got busy over the holiday and made a demo of a super simple way to cook them: seasoned with salt, pepper, and thyme, rolled-up, braised, nestled on some greens I saved from the garden and sauced with the braising juices infused with morels. I hope you enjoy the video, it’s at the bottom of the post.
Venison Neck Roast with Morel Sauce and Wilted Chard
- 1 venison neck
- 12 oz fresh leafy greens or blanched, shocked and frozen greens
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour kneaded with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter to make kneaded roux
- 4 cups venison or other meat stock preferably made using the spine and some other scraps
- 1/2 oz dried morel mushrooms
- 1 Tablespoon duck fat or light-tasting oil for warming up the greens
- 6 large dried morels about 15 grams
- 1 cup water
- Inspect the neck for fur. Remove the spine and windpipe from the neck. If you have a dog, consider cooking the windpipe for them, it's a great treat. Lay the neck flat on a cutting board and tenderize the fat bottom portion that connects to the shoulder, don't demolish it, just even it out a bit. Season the neck well with salt, pepper and chopped thyme on the inside. Tie the roast, then season the outside. From here, If I have a day to work ahead, I'll let it sit overnight in the fridge uncovered to dry and infuse, but cooking it right away is fine.
- Brown the roast in a dutch oven in some lard, then remove and deglaze with 1/2 cup of the venison stock. Reduce the stock until it is near dry, then deglaze with the remaining stock. Put a layer of parchment on top of the roast, then top with a lid and bake at 300F for 2 hours.
- Remove the neck from the oven, chill overnight, then skim the fat from the pot and remove the twine. Cut the roast into 4 equal portions. If the deer was larger, it could yield 6 portions. Cover the sliced roast with cling film and allow to come to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, hydrate the morels in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes, then swish them, squeeze out the water and cut into 1 inch tubes. Put the morels back in the water and swish again to remove grit, then squeeze out the water again, and reserve, then strain the soaking water through a seive and add to the venison stock.
- Reduce the stock on medium heat for 30 minutes, then whisk in 1/2 the roux, and then small amounts of the remaining roux until it's thickened and you like the consistency. You should have about 1.5 cup of sauce, and will likely have extra. Adjust the sauce for salt and reserve.
- To serve, brown the slices of venison neck on one side until golden and keep warm. Meanwhile, wilt the greens in the lard, season, blot on a towel to remove water, and make a mound on 4 preheated dinner plates, topping each with a neck slice, and spooning the morel sauce over the top.