8/17/2008
Lampreys for Dinner!

After my client Tim raved about how delicious lamprey eels were, my curiousity was peaked.  You are what you eat I thought, so how could a creature that basically eats trout and salmon taste bad?   They do look gross, but if you get past the raspy mouth, they look like an eel.   Google "Lamprey recipes" or "eating lamprey" or "cooking lampreys" and a bunch of info comes up.   Turns out that lampreys are seen as upper class delicacies in Europe.  In France they fetch upwards of $25 a pound and have become harder to find due to demand!    But in North America people don't eat them.   We're grossed out by them.   We eat lobsters, which are related to spiders and consume dead stuff on the Ocean's bottom.  We eat livers, hot dogs and all kinds of questionable stuff, but God forbid we eat an eel out of clean water!    So when Carol landed a 28" laker with a big lamprey attached, I took the eel and put it in a plastic bag and stuffed it in my cooler.

When I got back to the boat launch at Taughannock there was a chicken BBQ going on to support the Rotary Club.   So I bought 1/2 chicken that was served with bread, coleslaw and salt potatoes.  On top of that I bought a nice brownie too.   I ate it all.   Why am I telling you this?  Because when I cooked the lamprey I wasn't hungry - I was stuffed with food.   More on this later.

I got home and put the lamprey on a cutting board.  I cut off the head and gutted it.   It was easy to do.   There was green stuff in its lower intestine.   I guess that's what "processed lake trout blood and fluids" turn into when they get processed in the lamprey's digestive system.   After gutting the eel I cut it into pieces.   I took one piece and sprinkled it with salt and pepper, the other piece went straight into the pan.   I then took a chunk of butter and threw it in my little frying pan.  

As the eel cooked up I felt brave and like a pioneer.  I wasn't afraid!  ;-)   I took the pieces out and put them on a plate and sat down - stuffed from the chicken dinner.   I took a bite of the eel, and then another and another.  It was superb!   This creature I'd been letting dry up in my boat and killing before disgustingly tossing into the water, or leaving in a pile was better tasting than the fish I'd been eating.   Now I knew what King Henry I loved eating more than anything!   The eel reminded me of eating a smelt sauteed in butter, but was richer, yet not in a bad way.  It was hard to describe - a familiar taste sensation but I couldn't place it;  it definitely tasted like a delicacy - something you pay a lot for at a great restaurant and savor.   My client Tim said he'd "eat them by the pound" if he could.   I saw what he meant.   Lampreys aren't for everyone, and most of you reading this are probably shaking your head laughing or in disgust.   But if you have any culinary sense of adventure, try one.   They are excellent and I won't be disappointed the next time I catch a laker with a lamprey on it.  It'll be heading straight for the frying pan!  They are THAT GOOD!   Tim gets the true credit for being a pioneer.   I'm just a follower.