The secret for a perfect eel

How to select it and cook it: tips from "specialist" Federico Beretta, chef at restaurant Feel in Como

The delicious Anguilla BBQ from Federico Beretta

The delicious Anguilla BBQ from Federico Beretta, chef at Feel in Como. In this piece he explains the best way to select it and cook it

Federico Beretta, chef at restaurant Feel in Como, recently participated in a dinner event dedicated to freshwater fish that took place at Piccolo Lago in Verbania (see also Quelli che... cucinano l'acqua dolce). On top of him and host Marco Sacco, there were also Chicco Cerea, Mauro Elli and Leandro Luppi. Beretta cooked an eel that was so good we thought it a good idea to ask him the secrets behind a perfect choice and cooking.

Let’s speak of eel. First of all, I want to tell you three reasons why you should appreciate it and a few tips when you want to eat it. 1) Eel is a very noble fish, its meat is tasty and very tender if you cook it properly. It’s a very strong animal that adapts well to changes in temperatures and lives hiding deep down below the surface of the water. 2) On top of being a tasty fish, it is a precious source of omega 3, proteins, vitamins A and E, as well as minerals like calcium. 3) It’s also a sustainable fish and if you choose it in the right size (around 700-900 grams) there’s very little to waste!

Federico Beretta

Federico Beretta

Many fishermen fish freshwater eels these days, like Andrea Soardi, linked to Slow Fish and a supplier of mine. For generations his family has been working in Lake Iseo. We constantly collaborate with them. As for farmed products, eel farming has ancient roots and was recently appreciated once again thanks to the interest of chefs and restaurants, so today you can very easily find good products farmed following the best criteria. I always have eel in the menu at my restaurant. On top of Soardi, my other supplier is Troticoltura Santa Cristina in Quinto Di Treviso (Tv). Part of their water supply comes from groundwater, part from river Sile close to its spring, as the firm is within the Regional Natural Park of Fiume Sile.

They say: «Thanks to an area with canes, there’s a sort of herbal purification thanks to which, after frequent controls of its characteristics, the water is even better than when it arrives. The low fish density allows us to have a semi-intensive farming in sequence; the pools are left "to rest" to allow plankton to develop, which is the foundation of the fish diet. We add the best food available. These and other management choices, though expensive, increase the well being of the animals which translates in better performance, and increase the organoleptic qualities of the fish».

Beretta with Elisa Forlanelli, in charge of the dining room at Feel

Beretta with Elisa Forlanelli, in charge of the dining room at Feel

Here are some tips to cook the perfect eel.

How to select it: when at the market, choose eels that are still alive. The ideal size is around 700-900 grams, so there’s an excellent ratio between thickness, greasiness and waste. Indeed with this size you will have little extra waste compared to smaller eels and a thick meat but not too thick, which makes it’s easier to cook. Otherwise, if the eel at the market is already dead and not clean, it’s best not to trust its use because there might be the risk that the entrails have spoiled the meat.

How to cook it: there are many ways to cook eel: stewed, fried, in carpione or – the way I prefer it come - grilled. The meat acquires an excellent smoky and woody aroma, it becomes crispy on the outside and very tender and juicy on the inside.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso



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