How do you cook an eel? Try the French way!

Today I bought some eel from Johnson's in Old Portsmouth. The fishmonger had a couple of eels he would like to sell off and I felt like having an experiment. Here's a recipe I found online.

This recipe from Lorraine is a deliciously versatile freshwater fish stew. Seasoned with herbs and brought together in a rich, red wine base, it is more like a fisherman's coq au vin. 

What's truly lovely about this matelote recipe is that the hearty, comforting stew can be made quickly, yet tastes like it simmered for hours.

Classic matelote can be made with any firm freshwater fish. However, for it to be a truly traditional preparation, it must include freshwater eel.

2 thick strips bacon, coarsely chopped
250g pearl onions, peeled
250g white mushrooms
400ml fish stock
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley
1 sprig thyme
1 clove
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
300ml dry red win
500g freshwater fish or eel, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon beurre manie (1 tbsp each of butter and flour, mixed)
8 large croutons
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, fry the bacon until it turns crisp and slightly browned around the edges. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease out of the saucepan. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook them just until they caramelize, about 15 minutes. Transfer the onions to a plate and cover them.

Tie the bay leaf, parsley, thyme, and clove into a bouquet garni.

Add the fish stock, bouquet garni, onion, shallots, salt, and pepper to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer the broth for 10 minutes.

Add the red wine and fish to the mixture and continue simmering it for 10 minutes. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the pan and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes.

Stir the beurre manie into the stew and remove the bouquet garni. Allow the matelote to simmer just until slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. (The stew will continue to thicken a bit as it cools.) 

Serve the matelote hot, with large croutons or sliced baguette.

This matelote recipe makes 6 to 8 servings.


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