Estofado de Congrio

congrio

The European Conger Eel is a grey black, snake like fish that lives for about 15 years and can grow as long as 6 meters, though on average they are about 1.5 meters. The conger is common to the Eastern Atlantic Ocean but when it reaches maturity, it returns to the Mediterranean to spawn. These fish can be quite aggressive when caught, they will attack and bite (quite savagely) any unwitting fisherman who lands one. The conger eel is not a sought after fish, as there is little or no demand for them.

steve hatt

I was delighted to find that my local and excellent fishmonger, Steve Hatt, is open for business in these dark times. They have made a table of used fish boxes to close off the front door and customers queue outside – which works well since all the fish are displayed in the window. I was very impressed by a notice stuck to the glass, stating that the fishmongers will deliver to any local person who can’t get out.  While waiting for mussels, I spotted a large conger eel in the window and wondered what it tastes like? Conger’s cheap, so I bought a 3/4lb (340g) steak to try it.

conger eel

The conger eel has a thick fatty skin, so most recipes suggest removing it before frying. However, I like the fattiness in Japanese eel sashimi and came across a few Spanish and Portuguese recipes which keep the skin on, so I left my fish intact. I used the two linked recipes as inspiration, but relative to the contents of my fridge, I made up a Catalan influenced conger eel stew, thickened with a picada.

Estofado de Congrio receta (serves 2):

3/4lb conger eel
1/4 hot chorizo ring (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 medium Desirée potatoes (cubed)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 orange pepper or other capsicum (chopped)
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
1 dessertspoon fresh coriander (chopped)
2 bay leaves
1 pint fish stock
a splash extra dry vermouth
extra virgin olive oil (for frying)

Before cooking any white fish, do sprinkle on a little salt, an hour or so before cooking – as recommended by Jane Grigson.

cebolla

First and foremost in Catalan cooking, is the sofregit, commencing with gently fried onions in lots of olive oil, which are cooked until soft and sticky.

chorizo

I added a quarter of a hot cured chorizo ring (chopped) after the onion had become soft – not strictly speaking in keeping with the rules of making a sofregit, but a small amount of chorizo is often used in fish stew, generally in a single piece, along with the stock.

tomates

Grate in 4 tomatoes – cut them in half and shred the wet side. Throw away the skins or use them late in stock.

pimienta naranja

Typically one would add a red or green capsicum pepper, but since I had an orange one, that’s what I used – chopped.

pimentón

Sprinkle on a teaspoon of pimentón de la Vera dulce – sweet smoked paprika.

cilantro

Stir in a dessertspoon of fresh chopped coriander.

patatas

Add 2 medium peeled and cubed red potatoes, such as Desirée.

conger conga

Rinse the eel and make a well for it in the middle of the pot.

caldo

Pour on one pint of fish stock, add two bay leaves and stir gently.

bubbling

Bring the heat up to almost boiling, cover with a lid

simmering

and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the fish is tender.

almendras

When the eel is nearly ready, mix up the ingredients for the picada.

Picada recipe:

1 dessertspoon fresh coriander (chopped)
1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
10 blanched peeled almonds (toasted)
a small piece of stale bread (torn)
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
3 dessertspoons of the conga broth

Toast 10 blanched peeled almonds in a dry frying pan.

picada

Grind the almonds with a mortar and pestle, along with a chopped clove of garlic, a dessertspoon fresh coriander (cilantro) and a small piece of torn up stale bread. Pour on 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar and when the fish is done, 3 dessertspoons fish stew broth, to make a thick paste.

thickening

Stir the picada (paste) into the conger stew to thicken and flavour it.

estofado de congrio

Cook for a couple of minutes more, check the seasoning, sprinkle with cracked black pepper and serve with toasted sourdough bread and a glass of Mar Salada vino blanco.

The conger eel turned out to be absolutely delicious. It was perfectly suited to cooking in a stew and the skin became quite soft with a thin layer of unctuous fat underneath. For anyone not having access to conger, hake would make a good substitute.

About Mad Dog

https://maddogtvdinners.wordpress.com/
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14 Responses to Estofado de Congrio

  1. Eha says:

    What a joy to have your post fall into my box just now . . . ! I LOVE eel, but at this stage, I do not know whether I am used to conger eel or a distant cousin ! The ones I knew as a child in Europe were all vicious beasties one quite enjoyed coming to an end but those I caught in the northern rivers of our state I almost regretted having to smoke or pickle ! Hmm, since I have difficulty accessing bread and milk at the moment, your promised delicious repast may take a few days or so to be tried 🙂 ! . . . . keep well . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Eha – I hope you get to try it soon! The supermarkets here were empty for a week, but since Sunday they have been coming back to normal. Now that people have stocked their cupboards and freezers, they’ve stopped panicking.

  2. Tiene una pinta buenísima MD. Solo he probado la anguila en un japonés, seguro que tu adaptación tenía uña sabor estupendo también. Un saludo

  3. Very interesting article/recipe indeed, but …… not for me 🙂 though. Stay safe – stay home!

  4. Karen says:

    One nice thing about the ells, I bet there won’t be a run on them at the market. 😊 Well I had a couple of ells living in the crisper of my refrigerator one year before Christmas. We had them roasted with potatoes as part of a feast of the seven fishes. Been there, done that as I thought they were a little too fatty for my taste.

  5. Your local fish shop does well. Hoping they continue operations during the outbreak as it helps the community. The recipe looks nice, very interesting. We were just talking about eel the other day and wondered what it tastes like!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks! The fishmongers told me they’d stay open for the duration, as long as they were healthy and could buy fish. I recommend eel sashimi as a starting point – it’s delicious!

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