Fish Muddle


You can taste the coast in every bite of this stew.

Fish Muddle
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs

In North Carolina, a muddle is a stew that's made with the fresh catch of the day, taking advantage of the abundance of seafood available along the state's coastline. While local opinions may differ on how to prepare this hearty dish, it's usually served over grits or rice. Some cooks garnish it with parsley or add chopped hard-cooked eggs on top.

This highly savory Fish Muddle packs all the flavors of the coast into one package—our Test Kitchen compares it to an elevated version of shrimp and grits. For our take on a Fish Muddle, we use shrimp and a skinless snapper fillet, cut into bite-sized pieces (but you can use any flaky white fish here). The seafood flavor is fortified from the beginning with a shrimp stock (most of the time in this recipe is spent making the broth, because that's the real foundation for the dish). As tradition mandates, we spoon this muddle over grits and top it with hard-boiled eggs.


  • 2 ½ pounds large unpeeled, head-on, raw shrimp (about 20)

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 4 large garlic cloves, smashed

  • 2 celery stalks, chopped (about ¾ cup)

  • 2 small carrots, chopped (about ¾ cup)

  • 1 small onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)

  • 2 large thyme sprigs, plus leaves for garnish

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 4 cups chicken stock

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 5 ounces thick-cut bacon slices, chopped (about 3 slices)

  • 8 ounces baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved (about 1 cup)

  • 1 (15-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

  • 1 pound skinless snapper fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • Cooked grits or rice, for serving


  1. Remove heads and shells from shrimp. Devein shrimp; set aside. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add shrimp heads and shells. Cook, stirring and pressing on shrimp heads and shells occasionally, until starting to crisp, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, celery, carrots, onion, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally, until juices start to brown, about 4 minutes. Add stock and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high. Cover, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat; pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard solids.

  2. Add bacon to Dutch oven over medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy, 6 minutes. Add strained cooking liquid, potatoes, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat to medium. Simmer 12 minutes. Add fish and reserved shrimp; simmer until cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat.

  3. Serve fish mixture in bowls over grits or rice, and sprinkle with thyme leaves.

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