Winter Warming Seafood Stews

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Only a nice soup will warm you up in the winter, and in Eastern NC we love it when it is a seafood-based recipe. The following recipes were collected from some well know Down East North Carolina ones from the coast as well as a little inland like right here in Kinston.

 “Down East,” referring to Coastal North Carolina, is blessed not only with fish, shellfish, and abundant local produce; it’s also blessed with loads of great cooks. The recipes from the region are distinctive for their simplicity, as locals prefer to taste their seafood rather than a mix of seasonings.

Down East Shrimp Stew

(This recipe came from an old Beaufort NC recipe)


  • 2 lbs. medium shrimp
  • 6 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 6 cups water
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. self-rising cornmeal
  • 1 Tbs. bacon drippings


  • Mix ingredients in 4 quart saucepan. Cook on medium heat, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Add cornmeal to thicken.

Serves 4.

Hatteras Style Clam Chowder

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 4 cups, peeled, cubed white potatoes
  • 2 lbs. fresh minced clams, with juice
  • 3 quarts clam juice
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 slices crisp, cooked bacon


In a large pot over medium heat, cook onion, celery, and carrots in oil until they begin to soften. Stir in potatoes, clams, clam juice, thyme, pepper, and bacon. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Serves 8. Each serving contains Calories 265, Fat 4 g, Carbohydrates 23 g, Protein 32 g, Cholesterol 86 mg, Sodium 941 mg.

Eastern North Carolina Fish Stew

(Shared from “A Chef’s Life” and 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 (or if you are lucky, someone can cook up some lace cornbread)


  1. 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.
  2. Whisk the tomato paste into the bacon fat, making sure you scrape up all the scattlings left from browning the bacon.
  3. With the heat off, begin layering the ingredients. Keep in mind you want to end up with three layers.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Serves 12.


Down East Clam Chowder

(Recipe courtesy of NC Sea Grant)


  • 1 quart coarsely chopped chowder clams, with their juice
  • ¼ pound salt pork
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups diced potatoes
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup instant potato flakes for thickening (optional)


  1. In large saucepan, fry pork over medium heat until crisp. Remove pork and discard.
  2. Add clams, water, onion, salt and pepper to pan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook slowly until clams are tender, about 1½ hours.
  3. Add potatoes and onion, and cook until potatoes are done, about 20 minutes. Add potato flakes and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Serves 10-12.

Easy Tomato Shrimp Stew


  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes with green pepper, celery, and onions
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 12 ounces fresh cleaned shrimp


  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the diced tomatoes and sliced pepper and onion strips.
  2. Add the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and oregano, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add the shrimp, and simmer about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are done.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 146, Fat 1 g, Carbohydrates 13 g, Protein 19 g, Cholesterol 214 mg.

Crock Pot Shrimp, Sausage, and Chicken Gumbo


  • ½ pound medium shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ pound smoked sausage (cut into ½ inch slices)
  • 1 pound boneless chicken breasts (cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 1½ cups frozen okra (sliced)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 cups chicken stock (unsalted or low sodium)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can diced tomatoes (undrained, optional)
  • 1½ cups brown rice (uncooked)
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or water, for the rice)


  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. Peel the shrimp. With the tip of a sharp knife, make a shallow cut down the back of each shrimp. Remove the dark veins and rinse the shrimp under cold running water. Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes, or until they are pink and opaque. Drain and transfer the shrimp to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. Wipe the saucepan out and add the flour and oil; mix well. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about 8 to 12 minutes, or until mixture turns a light reddish-brown. Stir constantly to prevent scorching.
  4. Transfer the flour and oil roux mixture to the crock-pot. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the rice and the 3 cups of stock or water; stir well to combine ingredients.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours. Add the cooked shrimp to the gumbo; mix well.
  6. Cover and continue to cook on low for 15 to 20 minutes longer.
  7. During the last hour add uncooked rice and chicken broth.

Serves 6-8.

Crock Pot Shrimp and Grits


  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ cups, quick-cooking grits, uncooked
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup red pepper, chopped
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ½ lbs. small shrimp, peeled and cleaned, vein removed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 (10 ounce) cans diced tomatoes and green chilis, drained
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Combine chicken broth, salt, and grits in the crock-pot. Cover and cook on LOW 6-8 hours.
  2. Two hours before serving, sauté the peppers, onions, garlic, and shrimp in the 2 tablespoons butter until tender. Add this mixture to the crock-pot along with the cheeses, tomatoes with chilies, and cayenne, if using.
  3. Continue to cook on HIGH for an additional 2 hours.

Serves 4-6.