Carolina Seafood Muddle from ‘Southern Soups & Stews’

This week, we’re spotlighting recipes from Southern Soups & Stews: More Than 75 Recipes from Burgoo and Gumbo to Etouffée and Fricasseeby Nancie McDermott (Chronicle Books), a collection of hearty, crowd-pleasing dishes from around the American South. Try making the recipes at home and let us know what you think!

Fred Thompson’s Carolina Seafood Muddle. (Photo: Leigh Beisch)

By Nancie McDermott

Serves 8

All along the North Carolina coastline, and up through the sounds and inlets where saltwater and freshwater meet, countless species of fish and seafood thrive. This abundance has kept home cooks, families, and community groups busy for too many years to count, hauling in the day’s or season’s best catch and getting it to the table. Fred Thompson grew up in Johnston County, N.C., closer to Raleigh and the Piedmont than to the Outer Banks, but years of fishing trips and research for his numerous cookbooks have made him an honorary “banker.” Fred loves to stir up a muddle — a big mess of seafood cooked in a great cauldron over glowing coals. I’m so glad he translated his rustic muddle into a stovetop iteration, with saltwater flavor and the traditional garnish of hard-boiled eggs. Stock up on saltine crackers to go along with your muddle, or serve Cornbread with lots of butter.

½ pound sliced thick-cut bacon
2 ½ cups chopped onions
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice
3 cups peeled, thinly sliced red potatoes
2 cups bottled clam juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 ½ pounds snapper, halibut, grouper, bass, or cod, cut into 1½-inch chunks
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ pound bay scallops
8 eggs
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a Dutch oven or a large, heavy pot, cook the bacon until it is crisp and nicely browned, turning it often. Leaving the grease in the pot, transfer the bacon to a plate to cool, and then crumble or chop it into small pieces.

Heat the pot over medium-high heat and add the chopped onions. Toss them and cook until they are fragrant, shiny, and softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and toss it well.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, clam juice, vinegar, and 3 cups water and stir them together. Add the thyme, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Let the muddle come to a lively boil, and then adjust the heat to maintain a visible simmer. Cover and cook, stirring it once or twice, until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the fish, placing it in a single layer on top of the vegetables. Place the shrimp all over the stew, and scatter in the bay scallops as well. Then add water as needed to just cover the fish, but not the shrimp. Cover and cook it undisturbed, until the fish are opaque and flaky and the shrimp are bright pink, 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, crack four of the eggs into small bowls. When the shrimp are pink, uncover the muddle, and gently slide the eggs in on the surface of the soup, one by one, placing them evenly around the edges of the pot. Repeat with the remaining four eggs, and then cover and cook them for 1 1⁄2 to 2 minutes. Scoop a little soup stock over the poaching eggs. Scatter the reserved bacon, green onions, and parsley over the soup. When the eggs are poached, quickly scoop them out into individual serving bowls. Ladle out the seafood muddle over the eggs, making sure each bowl gets beautiful chunks of fish, bright pink shrimp, and little scallops. Serve hot or warm.

Reprinted with permission from Southern Soups & Stews: More Than 75 Recipes from Burgoo and Gumbo to Etouffée and Fricasseeby Nancie McDermott (Chronicle Books).

Southern Soups & Stews. (Photo: Leigh Beisch)

For more awesome soups to inspire you this fall, visit our Soups & Stews Pinterest board

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