This hearty dish is a classic from eastern North Carolina.
- Makes: 12 servings
- Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
- Recipe Created By: Vivian Howard
- 1 pound smoked bacon, sliced
- 6 ounces (1 can) tomato paste
- 3 pounds white or red potatoes, peeled and sliced into ½-inch rounds
- 2 pounds yellow onions, peeled, halved and cut into ¼-inch slices
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced (optional)
- 3 pounds fish steaks, about 3 ounces each, with bones in tact (red drum, rockfish or sheepshead are good options)
- 2 ½ tablespoons salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons chili flakes
- 1 dozen eggs
- 1 loaf white bread
- Cut the bacon slices into 1-inch squares. Brown it on the bottom of an 8- to 10-quart Dutch oven or cast-iron pot. Once it’s crisp, remove it and reserve.
- Whisk the tomato paste into the bacon fat, making sure you scrape up all the scattlings left from browning the bacon.
- With the heat off, begin layering the ingredients. Keep in mind you want to end up with three layers.
- Start with a layer of potatoes, followed by a layer of onions and garlic, if using, followed by a layer of fish. Top the fish with a third of the salt and a third of the chili flakes. Repeat with two more layers.
- Fill the pot with enough water to just barely reach the top of the fish. If there’s a little fish peeking out over the top, that’s OK. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring up to a boil slowly over medium heat. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and let it cook at a high simmer for about 15 minutes. Check the potatoes for doneness. They should be tender, not falling apart.
- Taste the broth and add more salt if needed. Then, with the stew at a good simmer, add the eggs one by one in a single layer over the top of the stew. You’re trying to cook whole eggs in the broth.
- Once the eggs are cooked through, use a large ladle to portion the stew. A proper serving is at least one piece of fish, two potatoes, some onions and an egg swimming in broth. Sprinkle each bowl with some bacon and serve with a slice of white bread.
Tips & Notes
Try cracking the eggs into a small cup before dropping them in the stew.