Capitone Anguilla grigliato
This is our dad Michele’s recipe - he has been making this forever! When we were children, we would squeal and I’m not sure if it was with fear or delight as our dad would bring home the live eels! They would swim around in the sink or bath – wherever he had put them and we would watch as he chopped them ready to be cooked. They would keep on moving and we were mesmerised!
The appearance is not that inviting, but the meat is white, fatty and of a very delicate taste. Italy is still the main European producer and one of the biggest exporters in the rest of Europe too. Italian eels and Capitone eels mainly come from the fishing valleys of the river Po delta, the Orbetello, Lesina and Varano lagoons, in part from Sardinian ponds and of course in Bari.
This is a dish served all year round but especially on Christmas eve. Our dad used to make this grilled eel recipe and also stewed in tomato sauce which we would eat with spaghetti.
For centuries the Catholic church prohibited its followers from eating meat on Fridays and on Christmas Eve. It was supposed to be a form of self-deprivation, but for Italians living in the countryside who rarely ate meat as it was too expensive, it was part and parcel of daily living.
Eel is a traditional part of a seafood-centric Christmas Eve dinner (La Vigilia di Natale) in many parts of Italy, particularly in the southern Italian towns of Bari and Naples and often makes an appearance as part of the Italian-American Feast of the Seven Fishes as well.
Eels can be prepared roasted, grilled, or fried. Eel meat is oilier than that of many other fish, and is consequently ideally suited to the grill, though it also fries well.
1 kg eel
3 cloves garlic
Fine sea salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
4 tablespoons Terre Di San Vito’s extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 bay leaf per piece of eel
Lemon wedges to serve
Lemon slices for the skewers
Preparing the Eel
Cut the eel into pieces about 7 cm long taking care not to damage the skin.
Rinse them under running water and ensure all the blood and residual innards have been removed.
Dry them well.
Once you have patted the chunks dry, place a clove of garlic and a couple of bay leaves, salt and pepper in the middle of each one
Fold the eel back together and skewer each chunk to form its original shape.
Place a slice of lemon on the skewer with the eel.
You can have 1 skewer for each piece or place 3 pieces on a large skewer, placing a bay leaf and a slice of lemon in between each chunk of eel.
Drizzle the eels with a little extra virgin olive oil and add salt and pepper the outside of the eels.
These are now ready to be cooked – either on the BBQ or under the grill. I would recommend whenever possible, to use the BBQ – it really does bring out the sweet taste of the eels.
Place on a baking tray under a hot grill for about 10 minutes or on a hot BBQ, turning them when they become golden. They are also really nice with the skin a bit burnt!
They are ready when the skin is well coloured and the flesh is beautifully white.
Great eaten with a salad or even some home made chips!
These eels can also be slow cooked in a tomato sauce and served with spaghetti or pasta (no cheese!)
If you cut them into small chunks, they are wonderful as a starter or with your aperitivo.
Serve our Capitone Anguilla grigliato with a bottle of our fabulous Terre Di San Vito Mosi rose wine.