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Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1987

  • About

This is a recipe prepared for me by Bill Neal, one of the finest young Southern chefs. He is proprietor and chief cook at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The soup is said to be one of the oldest dishes of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The name originated with the first settlers and means a “mess of fish”.


  • 5 slices lean bacon, cut into ¼-inch cubes (about ½ cup loosely packed)
  • 4 onions (about pounds), peeled and quartered
  • ¾ cup finely diced celery
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated orange rind
  • 1 can (20 ounces) Italian peeled tomatoes, drained (about 2 cups)
  • 1 pound red, waxy potatoes, peeled
  • 5 cups Fish Stock or shrimp broth (see note)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried
  • 1 whole dried hot red pepper (about 3 inches long)
  • Salt to taste, if desired
  • 6 ounces skinless, boneless, white-fleshed nonoily fish, such as grouper or red snapper, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 ounces bay scallops, left whole, or sea scallops, quartered
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup finely chopped scallion(s), including green part
  • tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley


  1. Put the bacon in a kettle and cook, stirring often, until the pieces are crisp and rendered of fat. Remove and reserve the pieces.
  2. Cut the quartered onions crosswise into thin slices. There should be about 5 cups.
  3. To the fat in the kettle, add the onions, celery, garlic, and orange rind. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.
  4. Cut the tomatoes into thin slices. Cut the potatoes into ½-inch cubes; there should be about 2 cups. Add the tomatoes to the kettle and cook about 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and fish stock or shrimp broth. Add the thyme, hot red pepper, and salt. Let simmer about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender without being mushy.
  5. Add the fish and shrimp and let simmer about 1 minute. Add the scallops and stir.
  6. Break 1 egg at a time into a saucer and carefully slide the 4 eggs onto the top of the simmering soup. Cover closely and let the soup simmer slowly, until the whites are firm and the yolks remain runny. As the eggs cook, baste them carefully with some of the hot liquid. Immediately spoon 1 egg into each of 4 hot soup bowls. Spoon the soup with fish and potatoes over all.
  7. Blend bacon bits, scallions, basil, and parsley together and garnish each serving with an equal portion of the mixture. Serve immediately.