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Eel Glass Kiln’s Way (El Bisato su l’Ara)

Contributed by Lucia Fanton, Luigi Zanon and Umberto Sartory

Eel Glass Kiln’s Way

Introduction

This recipe takes its name from the ara of the glass kilns, and it is, of course, typical in the Isle of Murano, where glassworkers could prepare a nourishing and tasty course with the minimum expense and time.

For the simple realization, and the particular flavour of the eel cooked this way, the ara’s cooking, in its variant on the brazier, it was widespread between all the fishermen of the Lagoon and became known as a typical dish of the Isle of Burano too.

This recipe, together with that of the Sievoi Rostii su la Grea, is likely one of the most ancient in Venetian Local Cuisine

In the modern version of the course, it can be found in some specialized restaurants that the eel is cooked together with other aromas such as grains of pepper. This unlikely fit the budget of the lagoon popular cuisine in ages when that spice was traded against its weight in gold, and employed just for the necessity in food conservation.

Ingredients
a live eel
bay leaves
sea water or vinegar
grains of pepper (optional)

Method

Clean the eels from its entrails and make some 6 to 7 cm cuts on its sides. According to the origin of the name, a bay leaves bed will be prepared on the ara where it is going to be prepared. The ara is the refractory bricks cell located aside the glass kiln, where glassworks lay for hours to slowly cool down. The dish can be imitated using a cook top that is wide, heated, with refractory tile or as used by non-glass working Venetians, a low, perforated pan, sat on a brazier.

Arrange the eel in a helix on the bay bed, sprinkle it with sea water or a water solution of vinegar, and cover it with another bay leaves layer. Cook the eel for about 20 minutes.

On the ara, the grease exudation is absorbed by the refractory, or it drips out from the holes of the pan. The fish, even if frying on its surface, will really be steamed by the aromatic vapour of the bay leaves and by its own, will be protected as well from the fumes of the burning grease by the lower bay layer.

To get a less ancient taste, leave the eel in water and vinegar for about one hour, and remove the slimy cuticle from the fish using a paper, before setting it on the ara. In the Venetian Local Cuisine, the fish to be grilled is never washed and is cooked with its brackish water. For a population that is mainly living on boats, sweet water was often precious, indeed.

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