In the southern part of the Province of Ferrara, and particularly in Comacchio, eels are more than a savoury dish, they represent an important economic and social factor.
The imposing landscape of the lagoons, now limited by past reclamation works, are the shelter of this species. In these wetlands, often hostile to man, eels used to be the main source of support, creating economic growth and well – being. For a long time the contended prey of hatcherymen and fiocinini, eels were protected by environmental changes. The catching techniques employed today are the same of the past, which take advantage of autumn tides attracting ripe eels. While swimming towards the sea, hundreds of eels get caught in the so called “lavorieri”, particular catching systems, once made of reeds, today of new advanced materials. From here they are first selected and then kept alive in big basins or baskets plunged in water (called bolaghe ). Eels are then cut in pieces, roasted and pickled in salt and vinegar to be sold on the market. The tradition system included the use of long skewers to be roasted in front of big fires. Today eels are prepared with modern industrial procedures that are capable of meeting the demand of an increasing market.
Eels however continue to be a typical dish of Comacchio, and can be cooked with many different recipes during the Christmas period, from the delicate risotto, to the soup called bec d’asan (donkey’s beak) accompanied with toasted slices of polenta.
The 48 recipes used in the region include also some very refined versions, as the small eel steaks with bitter-sweet sauce, a recipe worthy of nouvelle cuisine. But there is nothing like the tempting smell of grilled eel. Its delicate taste accompanied by the dry taste of the wine from Bosco Eliceo, typical of the sandy land of the delta, turns this dish in an unresistable gastronomic temptation.