This is a beautifully rich dish with deep flavors and a variety of textures. I love smoked eel and think it is under utilized, though it’s popularity has grown of late.
The cured pancetta compliments the smokey flavor of the eel and provides a contrast in texture.
The bitterness of the radicchio cuts through the smokey richness of the sauce and with the chives adds freshness and lightness to the dish.
Spaghetti with smoked eel, pancetta and radicchio
Makes 4 large portions
350 g Spaghetti
(use a quality brand such as Gerado Di Nola, or make your own fresh pasta)
200g Silver Lake Smoked Eel
(You can only buy whole eels, freeze excess in airtight glad bags.)
200g Flat Pancetta
(ask your deli to remove the rind and slice the pancetta into 1cm thick strips)
1 small head Radicchio sliced
1 clove of garlic sliced as fine as possible
1 bunch of chives cut into 3 cm batons
250ml chicken stock
150g unsalted butter cut into cubes
Extra vigin olive oil (your favourite)
1. Remove the head and tail end of the eel. Using a small knife make an incision along the spine of the eel, peel off the skin. Eels have four fillets and a central spine. Using your hands gently pull the flesh of the eel away from the spine. Roughly chop the eel in 1cm pieces.
(you can use the bones and skin to make a beautiful stock to turn into soups such as smoked eel and parmesan)
2. Slice the pancetta into thin strips. Place pancetta in a pan over medium to low heat. Slowly render the fat out of the pancetta. Stir occasionally to stop the pancetta sticking, it should start to fry in it’s own fat becoming nice and crispy. Once the pancetta is evenly crisp drain off the fat and discard it.
3. Cook the spaghetti until al dente in a large pot of boiling salted water. it should take 7-8 minutes depending on the brand.
4. While the pasta is cooking place in a large pan a small amount of olive oil and sliced garlic. Heat over medium to low heat and gently cook until the garlic is soft. Add the eel and pancetta.
5. Turn the heat to high and saute the garlic, eel and pancetta for 30 seconds to release and infuse their flavors.
6. De-glaze with chicken stock. Once stock is boiling add the cubes of butter and emulsify to form a sauce. Turn the heat down to prevent the sauce from splitting.
7. Add cooked al dente pasta to the pan along with the sliced radicchio. Toss through the sauce. Check and adjust seasoning.
8. Add the chives and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, toss through the pasta and serve immediately.
*Note: if the sauce becomes too thick or over reduces, use the water from cooking the pasta to adjust it to desired consistency.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Chef Mitchell Orr, winner of the ‘2010 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year’ award, for writing this guest post, for his recipe and for the photo. You can also read an earlier post a chat with Chef Mitchell Orr on Inside Cuisine.
and you can follow Mitch on Twitter too …