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Smoked Eel Crostini with Goat Cheese

January 12, 2014

One of the first radio documentaries I did on PEI was about the eel fishery here. Eel used to be a staple food in many island families, but you won’t find many eating it now. You will find some eel fishers though, who export their catch.

I remember the fisherman I met. I believe his name was Roy Clow. He said he’d been fishing for eels since he was a kid. When I spoke with him he would have been well into his 60s.

He showed me the hoop nets he used to catch the fish–long, interconnected concentric hoops laid along the river. He said it was the same way the ancient Egyptians used to catch eels. He hauled a wooden box up out of the water that was attached to the pier with a rope. He opened the lid and showed me his catch. Inside the box there were eels on top of eels, writhing in every which direction. Think of that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Smoked Eel 3I also interviewed Kim Dormaar, a transplanted Dutchman who’s famous on PEI for his smoked salmon, which is exported all over the place. Kim was Roy’s main customer. Kim told me how smoked eel is a delicacy in Holland, something he enjoyed as a kid.

I tried to get him to describe the flavour to me. “It’s like butter,” was the best he could come up with. After having tried it many times now myself, I can’t come up with anything much better. It is rich and creamy. It doesn’t have the sharp flavour of smoked salmon. The taste of smoked eel is mellow and deep.

The American eel itself is a remarkable creature. They all spawn in the same area, in the Sargasso Sea off the coast of Bermuda. Then they scatter all over North America and even parts of Europe. Swim up streams and rivers. Fishermen say some of them even make it inland, apparently, to inhabit lakes. They live for maybe a couple decades before returning to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

Smoked Eel 2

Smoked Eel Crostini with Goat Cheese

Not much to this really. The trick is finding the smoked eel. To make my crostini I cut a baguette into quarter-inch slices, on an angle so you get larger slices with more surface area.

Toast those in a 350-degree oven for about six minutes, turning over halfway through. You can brush them with olive oil beforehand if you like. When they’re done, just assemble with the smoked eel, crumbled goat cheese, fresh dill, capers, some freshly-ground pepper and a twist of fresh lemon juice.

Smoked Eel 1

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From → Food, Recipes

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