Fish Muddle

I found this recipe in the April 2016 issue of Our State magazine…

Will update after we actually make it…

Fish Muddle

fish muddle 300x405San Francisco has cioppino. Provence has bouillabaisse. Southerners, particularly in North Carolina, have muddle. It’s our classic Southern fish stew made from the catch of the day — seafood and shellfish on the coast and creek fish elsewhere, whatever you caught that you didn’t throw back. This thick stew includes basic vegetables and simple seasonings. And, like the proverbial stone soup, the more people pitching something into the pot, the more complex and robust a muddle becomes.

A defining characteristic of muddle is that it is garnished with eggs, which can be poached in the savory broth, scrambled and swirled into the pot like egg drop soup, or simply hard-cooked and crumbled. To make muddle even more filling, ladle it over hot grits or rice.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1½ pounds large, wild shrimp, peeled, deveined, shells and heads reserved
6 cups water
8 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 large celery stalks, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large carrots, finely chopped (about 1½ cups)
2 large onions, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 bay leaves
4 short thyme sprigs
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1½ pounds lean fish fillets (such as snapper or striped bass), cut into 2-inch pieces
6 cups freshly cooked rice or stone-ground grits
4 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Buttered saltines

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shrimp shells and heads. Cook, stirring constantly, until they turn pink. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cook gently until the liquid reduces to 4 cups, about 15 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the solids.

Cook the bacon in a large pot over medium-low heat until it is crisp and rendered, about 15 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.

Increase the heat to medium. When the bacon fat begins to sizzle, stir in the celery, carrots, onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes.

Add the shrimp stock, potatoes, and the salt. Simmer until the potatoes are almost done, about 15 minutes.

Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Season with pepper and hot sauce. Taste for salt.

Gently stir the fish into the stew. Arrange the shrimp over the top of the stew. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover the pot, and let cook until the fish and shrimp are barely opaque in the center, about 5 minutes.

Spoon hot rice or grits into serving bowls. Ladle muddle over the grits. Sprinkle with the eggs, reserved bacon, and parsley. Serve hot with buttered saltines.

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