Elvers tradition is part of the Basque gastronomy
In the Basque Country, especially in the region of San Sebastian, this dish is very traditional during the winter. Very traditional in the past during the Christmas season and especially during the feast of San Sebastian.
The elvers are the young eels that enters the rivers of Europe to grow and fatten. As soon as they reach the estuaries and rivers they are fished. Nowadays it is a very regulated and controlled fishery to guarantee the continuity of the species. The fishing quota is very limited, that’s why the price of a kilo of elvers is over 900€ in fishmongers.
The dish of elvers has gone from being a traditional cheap dish to an exclusive dish for rich people. In addition, they are also demanded by Asian countries that pay a lot of money to fatten them and market them in their countries.
Eels life cycle
The eel life cycle is very curious, it can be said that it is the opposite of the salmon life cycle. The eel is born in the form of larvae or plankton in the Sargasso Sea, near the Caribbean, then these plankton eels are carried to the European rivers by the Gulf Stream. Once they reach the mainland, they begin to swim up the rivers to develop and grow. When they have reached the size and weight of an adult eel they return to the sea, specifically to the Sargasso Sea to breed and finally to die. Then the offspring are born and return to Europe to continue their cycle. Isn’t it amazing!
Elvers dish cooking
The cooking method is very simple. The first and most important thing is to have a clay pot for cooking, some clay plates for serving and some wooden forks. Any good self-respecting chef should require these utensils before preparing the elvers.
Cooking the elvers is simple although if they are alive they should be killed with an infusion of tobacco diluted in a little water. Once they are dead, they are cooked little by little with a strainer and hot water. They are only cooked for a few seconds so the best way to do it is with a strainer.
Once they are cooked, add olive oil, garlic and some cayenne. The oil is heated little by little with the garlic and the cayennes. When the garlic is golden brown in the earthenware casserole, add the elvers. They are given a few turns so that they cook a little with the rest of ingredients and they are left to rest a little out of the fire. And that’s it! That’s all!
Now we only have to go to the store to buy them!