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The Scandinavian Kitchen
by Camilla Plum
In Scandinavia, eating eel is a male initiation rite, a contest, the proof of manhood being the number of times the bones can reach around the plate, and there is schnapps to go with most of the pieces of eel.
Eel flesh is rich and robust enough to cope with strong flavorings, including serious spices, vinegar, lemon, beer, horseradish, and/or garlic.  Eel has a great, rough taste and the flesh is fine, very firm, and very, very fatty.
The interesting flavor of this dish comes from the dark beer, lots of herbs, and a touch of vinegar, contrasting with the delicious fatty fish. The strange thing about cooking with beer is that the bitterness from the hops diminishes during cooking, leaving an arousing, pleasant complexity. Eat simply with new potatoes.
Serves 4



    • 1 lb 12 oz eel, cut into large chunks
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 4 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • A sprig each of fresh tarragon and sage
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 cup dark, strong beer
    • Generous 1/4 cup sweet hard cider
    • Coarse sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 2/3 cup heavy cream
    • 18 oz chopped mixed fresh herbs: parsley, dill, chives, chervil, and sorrel


Fry the eel in butter in a deep, thick-bottomed skillet, browning it lightly all over.   Add the vinegar and fry until the liquid has evaporated.  Add the sage and tarragon sprigs, bay leaf, thyme leaves, beer hard cider; salt, and pepper.  Leave to braise slowly for 15 minutes until tender. Remove the eel from the pan.

Pour in the cream and reduce to a thick sauce over a high heat.  Add the chopped fresh herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.  Return the eel to the pan and then serve.

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