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Creole Potlikker Fish Stew: A Bowl of Something Really Good

The Southern cure for what ails you.

by Marcy Harris

A bowl of Creole Potlikker Fish Stew with fish, mussels, scallops, greens, and grits.
Photo by Emma Boonstra

It’s that time of year when many of us are feeling under the weather, and we’re looking for that one comfort dish to fortify and pamper ourselves. For some, that means cooking up a batch of Mom’s chicken noodle soup. For me, it means digging into a bowl of our Creole Potlikker Stew.

Get your daily dose of vitamins.

Rich in vitamins A, B, C, and K, as well as potassium and iron, the broth in this stew might be just what you need to feel better. In fact, Ari Weinzweig calls it the Southern equivalent of chicken soup. The broth is left over from cooking collard greens with ham hocks and bacon, and the process draws all the nutrients out of the greens and into the liquid. We call the broth potlikker, aptly named because every last drop is a flavor-savor.

In the potlikker itself, we simmer mussels, scallops, and fresh fish from Foley on the East coast. It all gets ladled over bacon-braised greens and Anson Mills’ grits. The greens and grits soak up all that goodness, so you are scooping up the broth with every bite at the bottom of the bowl. All in all, a simple dish, yet it’s really tasty and filling. I love that you can taste the essence of the bacon in the broth.

History you can eat.

Potlikker is as rich in history as it is in vitamins. It can be traced back to the days of enslavement, when masters would keep the greens and leave the broth for the slaves, not realizing that they were handing out the most nutritious part of the dish. The slaves would then make it stretch by adding bean broth and topping it off with cornmeal or flour biscuits. 

John T Edge., director of the Southern Foodways Alliances and author of The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, claims there to be a “subversive beauty in this dish”. There was creativity behind making something last out of necessity, and it is that creativity that connects us with how and what we eat now.

Please don’t dump the potlikker!

The story behind our stew at the Roadhouse started with Ari Weinzweig rescuing the broth before it was discarded from a batch of of our bacon-braised greens. Knowing its history and how yummy it is, he filled up shot glasses with the broth and handed them out to the guests to sample. Everyone loved it!

Ari says “I think it’s also worth raising a shot glass of it in a respectful toast to the slave cooks who did the unglamorous work. They developed the roots of African-American eating the rest of us get to enjoy today.”

We will always save the potlikker so you can stop in and treat yourself to a bowl! Soak up every last drop with crusty Bakehouse bread or buttery biscuits, and feel better!

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