If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you may have noticed I really like the pairing of smoked eel with celeriac. And here is yet another dish based upon that combination, with the addition of toasted hazelnuts. The celeriac is pressure cooked with baking soda to caramelize it and deepen the flavor. The smoked eel is pureed with cream and just a bit of lemon juice. The combination of textures (velvety eel and celeriac mousse with crunchy hazelnuts) and flavors (smoky eel, earthy celeriac, nutty hazelnuts) is very appealing. They are served together in tumbler as a small appetizer, also known as amuse bouche. Such an appetizer is supposed to ‘amuse’ your mouth, and this one certainly does. It is simple to prepare and can be prepared in advance, to be reheated just before you serve it.
For 4 servings
100 grams (3.5 oz) smoked eel
80 ml (1/3 cup) cream
50 grams (3 1/2 Tbsp) butter
3/4 tsp baking soda
freshly ground white pepper
4 Tbsp hazelnuts
freshly squeezed lemon juice
Peel the celeriac. I find this easier with a chef’s knife than with a vegetable peeler, due to the thick skin.
Keep peeling until all you see is white. You will have to cut away the roots at the bottom.
Cut the celeriac into pieces of about 2 cm (1 inch).
In the pressure cooker, combine 60 ml (1/4 cup) water with 50 grams butter, 3/4 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.
Add the celeriac.
Close the pressure cooker, bring to pressure, and then cook for 20 minutes.
The celeriac will be nicely caramelized from the high temperature in the pressure cooker in combination with the baking soda (which helps with the Maillard).
Puree using an immersion blender…
…until completely smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground white pepper. You can use celery salt (salt mixed with ground celery seed) instead of regular salt for some additional celery flavor.
The eel mousse is very simple to make. Cut the eel into pieces and combine it in a saucepan with 80 ml (1/3 cup) cream. Heat the cream, but do not allow it to come to a boil.
Use an immersion blender to change this into eel mousse.
Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt (be careful as smoked eel is already quite salty) and freshly ground white pepper.
Roughly chop the hazelnuts, and toast them at 180C/350F in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Transfer the eel mousse and the celeriac puree into piping bags. Everything up to this point can be prepared in advance. Reheat the piping bags if needed by submerging them in hot water for half an hour.
To serve, use the piping bags to dispense first eel mousse and then celeriac puree into a tumbler. Garnish with the hazelnuts, and serve with a small spoon.
We had this with a barrel-fermented Friulano from 2008, i.e. with several years of bottle aging, and it was a very good pairing. This amuse bouche works well with a complex full-bodied white that is both creamy and earthy.
More hazelnuts in today’s flashback, because it’s a Hazelnut Mocha Meringue Torte!