Obtaining fresh seafood on a holiday is always problematic, but I wanted to serve seafood for at least one of the courses of the Christmas menu anyway. I’ve done lobster in the past, which you can keep alive in your refrigerator. Then I thought of eel. In Italy eel is prepared for New Year’s eve to ward off evil, so it is traditional for the holiday season. When I saw live eel at the fishmonger’s, my problem was solved.
I kept the eel alive in the refrigerator for a few days, covered by a damp (not wet) towel. I kept them in the 0ºC/32ºF compartment, which made them very sluggish. Eel cannot be kept in water, unless the water is aerated, so this is an easier method. I checked on them every day to make sure they were still alive. And so we had fresh eel on Christmas day! Since eel combines well with celeriac, I thought that celeriac ravioli would combine nicely with a sauce of eel stewed in tomato sauce. I had prepared this a while ago and loved it.
The combination of the eel with the celeric ravioli was divine! The photo doesn’t do it justice, I wish there was a way to put the flavor of this dish in HTML so you could try it. Since that is not possible, the only way to go is to prepare this for yourself.
I have included photos of how I ‘dealt with’ the eel at the end of the post. If you are not into that kind of thing, I recommend to stop reading after the photo of the finished dish further below. I will provide due warning.
500 grams (1.1 lbs) fresh eel, cleaned and skinned
1 can (400 grams/14 oz) peeled tomatoes
80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1 sprig fresh basil
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the celeriac ravioli
1 celery stalk, minced
1/2 tsp celery seeds
4 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
200 grams Italian 00 flour
salt and freshly ground white pepper
I decided to cook the celeriac sous-vide. Since my sous-vide cooker was already occupied with the lamb, I had to do this in a simple stock pot. I peeled and cubed the celeriac and vacuum sealed it with the celery seeds, minced celery stalk, butter, salt, and pepper.
I heated a large pot of water to between 85ºC/185ºF and 90ºC/195ºF and added the celeriac. I regulated the heat such that the temperature of the water stayed in that range and cooked the celeriac sous-vide in that stockpot for 90 minutes.
I made pasta dough from the flour and eggs, rolled it out as thinly as possible and cut out circles. For special occasions I like to make mezzalune (half moon shaped ravioli) instead of the regular square ones.
This is where to leave if you don’t like to see how I handled those eels.
How to deal with live eels
Put them in the sink and sprinkle generously with salt. The salt helps to make them less slippery.
Cut towards the head to open up its gut cavity. Do not cut too deeply, as that would only rupture the internal organs. You only need to upen up the gut cavity. Remove the internal organs from the gut cavity and discard them. Rinse the eel with cold water inside and out.