Smoked eel 'carbonara'

AT A GLANCE

  • Serves 4 - 6 people

You will need to begin this recipe three days ahead to prepare the eel.

  • 1 live eel (1.3kg; see note)
  • 100 gm woodchips (such as hickory)
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 120 gm Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • 3 bunches chives, finely chopped
  • 60 gm butter
  •  
  • Egg pasta dough
  • 500 gm "00" flour
  • 250 gm egg (2 whole eggs and 9 yolks)
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
01   Place eel in a container of heavily iced water and refrigerate to put it to sleep (3-4 hours). Place eel on a chopping board and, using a very sharp knife, remove the head with one swift cut just behind the front fins. Place the eel into fresh iced water and refrigerate overnight to bleed it.
02   Make an incision below the top fin and pull the skin off, which should peel away easily (see note), then gut and fillet the eel as you would a fish. Once the fillets are cleaned and trimmed, refrigerate for a day to allow the meat to rest. The next day, salt the eel liberally with sea salt, set aside for 2 hours, then rinse and pat dry.
03   Light a charcoal barbecue and let it burn until the embers are glowing (35-45 minutes). Meanwhile, soak woodchips in water. When coals are ready, add woodchips, place eel on a cooking rack, and close air vents on barbecue to two-thirds closed. Smoke eel until lightly cooked (10-15 minutes). Set aside to cool, then dice or flake flesh.
04   For egg pasta dough, process ingredients in a food processor or an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then press together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and press as flat as possible, then rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
05   Divide dough in 2 and, working with a piece at a time (wrap the other in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out), roll out dough with a rolling pin, feed through pasta machine on the widest setting, then fold each end of the dough over so you have 3 layers and feed the dough through the machine again. Repeat, reducing the setting and folding the dough each time, until it is 2mm thick. Using the spaghetti attachment, cut dough into spaghetti, then toss in flour as it comes out of the pasta cutter to prevent sticking.
06   Combine yolks, Parmigiano-Reggiano and chives in a large bowl and set aside.
07   Heat butter in a large deepsided frying pan over medium heat, add smoked eel and fry until eel and butter are nicely browned (2-3 minutes).
08   Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente (3-4 minutes). Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water, and add pasta to eel, toss until pasta is coated in butter, then transfer immediately to yolk mixture with 1.3 cup reserved pasta water and toss until pasta is coated and sauce is creamy (add more pasta water if necessary), season to taste and serve with extra grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Note You can also buy smoked eel; this recipe calls for around 440gm smoked, skinned fillets. If you don't remove the skin before smoking the eel, it will take a further 5-10 minutes to cook (15-25 minutes in total).

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