One of the great things about foods is trying local or regional
dishes. This is a dish that I learned to make while living in
eastern NC. This is a stew made by the locals in the eastern
parts and outer banks of NC. Like most local dishes everyone
has their own ways of doing it, but ingredients and method are
similar. It’s a hearty stew made with fish, potatoes, onions, slab
bacon, red pepper, tomato soup, eggs. Fish stew is made in the
cold weather months Nov-March. That’s if Nov & March are
cold that year in NC. The dish can be prepared inside on a stove
top or out side in a iron pot. Fish stew is a dish made by the
backyard cook. Friends get together, all the men stand around
talking and watching the stew, the ladies are inside getting the
fixings together. Stop ! There are no fixings with Eastern NC
Fish Stew only what’s in the pot and light bread (sliced white
bread). Who knows what the ladies are doing, maybe fixing
dessert. Fish stew is also a favorite dish for churches and civic
groups. The tiny town of Grifton, NC host the annual “Grifton
Shad Festival Fish Stew” in March each year.
What amazes me about this dish is that it’s popularity is only
know in about 3-4 counties, you drive to Raleigh or west of
I-95, people don’t know what it is. Some local restaurant will
put fish stew on the menus , usually on Friday or Saturdays.
Fish stew is usually made with fish caught locally. The Neuse
river that runs through eastern NC is or was a popular location.
A lot of locals bring back their catch from the coastal water of
the outer banks and save them for stew. The most favorite fish
are rockfish, striped bass, puppy drum, catfish, and other firm
fish. Most fish stew is made with bone in fish cut into 2 inch
pieces crossways through the backbone. As I found out the hard
way when the pot gets low don’t stir and dip, you will get a
bowl full of bones. I make mine with boneless fillets.
One of the favorite parts of the stew is the eggs. They crack
eggs into the hot stew and let them cook until cooked hard, they
usually have at least two eggs per person.