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Lamb's Neck Tamale Filling

The meat from the neck of a lamb yields flavorful and tender morsels. The marinade for this recipe delivers a velvety, belly warming sauce that takes away any winter chill. Lamb's neck is not a typical tamale filling, but it is a stand-out and one that will attract a following. Mexico's northern border was settled predominantly by the Basque, settlers with a rich sheepherding culture, and as a result lamb was a preferred meat. Think of this as frontier comfort food.

The meat from the lamb's neck, often dismissed as tough and bony, is satisfying and flavorful. This recipe's preparation requirements, a marinade and a slow roast, eliminate any hint of toughness. After the slow roast, the meat is easy to work with and pulls easily off the bones.

This recipe will provide enough meat and chile for about one and one-half to two dozen tamales. Ideally, make the lamb filling the day before the tamale dough; it should be at room temperature when used to assemble the tamales. The tamale dough and assembly instructions are in the Mexican Food archive related link below.

Roasting pan with lid
Medium bowl
Gallon size zipper lock plastic bag
Electric blender
Chinois and pestle preferably, or mesh strainer and large spoon
Molcajete or mortar and pestle to grind allspice berries and cumin seeds

2 Lamb necks, 4-6 lbs.
6 Dried ancho chiles, toasted, stemmed, seeded and torn into pieces
4 Guajillo chiles, toasted, stemmed, seeded and torn into pieces
2 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 Teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and crushed
2 Teaspoons Mexican oregano (omit if not available)
4 Allspice berries, crushed or ground
⅛ Teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Cup red wine or apple cider vinegar
2-3 Teaspoons salt, or to taste

1. In a small bowl, place chile pieces and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl and let sit for approximately 30 minutes. Remove the chiles to an electric blender carafe. Save the soaking water.
2. To the carafe with the chile add, garlic, cumin, oregano, allspice, pepper, vinegar, salt. Blend to a pliable paste, adding small amounts of chile water if necessary.
3. Remove enough chile to cover the lamb's necks. Place in plastic bag and marinate in refrigerator overnight or at a cool room temperature for two and one-half hours.
4. The remaining chile in the blender should be thinned with additional chile soaking water and refrigerated for use with the filling.It should have the texture of a thick salsa, not a paste.
Roasting Lamb
5. Preheat oven to 300˚F.
6. Without removing any marinade, place necks in the roasting pan, cover, and cook for three hours.
7. When necks are cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones, cut into small pieces and toss in the bowl with the remaining chile sauce (step 4 above).
8, When the meat and chile mixture is cooled, use 1 to 2 tablespoons of the filling per tamale. Do not use for tamale filling when warm.

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Masa Tamales - Basic Tamale Dough
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Content copyright © 2018 by Mickey Marquez. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Mickey Marquez. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Mickey Marquez for details.


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