Carmel Zucker
Strawberry & Eel from Max Mackissock of The Squeaky Bean in Denver.
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Strawberry & Eel

Max Mackissock, The Squeaky Bean, Denver / July 2013

For 6 servings (requires advance preparation)

Fennel condiment:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup fennel bulb, cut into sm. dice
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fennel juice
  • 2 Tbsps. plus 2 tsps. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt

Heat oil in a skillet set over low heat; add fennel bulb and seeds; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned; add sugar, juice, and vinegar; bring to a boil; add salt; cook until pan is almost dry and condiment holds its shape; remove from heat; place in airtight container; reserve.

Strawberry soffritto:

  • 2 cups onion, cut into sm. dice
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  • 12 cups ripe strawberries, cut into sm. dice
  • 2 cups strawberry juice
  • 5 tsps. basil vinegar
  • salt
  1. Heat oven to 200°F.

  2. Toss onion and oil in small casserole; cook overnight; remove from oven.

  3. Stir in 4 cups strawberries; cook overnight; stir in additional 4 cups strawberries; cook overnight; remove from oven.

  4. Drain off oil; discard; stir in remaining 4 cups strawberries, juice, and vinegar; season; set over medium-low heat; cook until liquid has evaporated; remove from heat; reserve.

Eel glaze:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 Tbsps. onion, cut into sm. dice
  • 6 Tbsps. fennel bulb, cut into sm. dice
  • 6 Tbsps. celery, cut into sm. dice
  • 6 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
  • 6 Tbsps. Colatura di Alici

Heat oil in a sauté pan set over medium-high heat; add onion, fennel, and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and brown; add vinegar; bring to a boil; reduce by 30 percent; remove from heat; add Colatura di Alici; blend with immersion blender until smooth; reserve.

Assembly:

  • 6  3-oz. pieces saltwater eel, skinned
  • coarse sea salt
  • 3/4 cup green (unripe) strawberries, pickled and halved
  • 6 ripe strawberries, sliced lengthwise
  • 18 paper-thin slices rhubarb
  • 18 1/4"-wide fennel petals, roasted
  • 24  1/2" sprigs bush basil
  • 24  1" pieces fennel frond
  • 18 Johnny Jump-Ups flowers
  • 2 1/2 tsps. aged balsamic vinegar (50 years)
  • 2 1/2 tsps. extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Ignite binchotan charcoal in a grill until it burns at high heat.

  2. Grill eel until brown; flip; brush with glaze; grill until cooked through; remove from heat; place on a platter; sprinkle with salt.

  3. To serve, place eel slightly off center on each plate; place 2 tsp. quenelles of fennel condiment around rim of each plate at 11 o’clock and 4 o’clock; place 2 tsp. quenelles of strawberry soffritto around the rim of each bowl at 12 o’clock and 5 o’clock; place 3 pickled green strawberry halves next to quenelles of fennel condiment; place 3 slices ripe strawberry next to strawberry soffritto; curl 3 pieces of rhubarb; arrange on plate; place 3 roasted fennel petals next to ripe strawberries; place 4 sprigs basil and 4 fennel fronds around, spacing equally on top of other components; top with 3 Johnny Jump-Ups; drizzle vinegar and oil around.

What to drink: C. von Schubert Riesling QbA Trocken Mosel Maximin Grünhäuser 2010