John Hurst’s EZ fish stew

A bowl of this stew really hits the spot, especially later this month when the evening air shows those cool hints of fall weather. (Photo by Jerry Dilsaver)

This month’s recipe is from a guest who personifies being a sportsman in the Carolinas. John Hurst is from Florence, SC and hunts and fishes from the Outer Banks of NC to the duck swamps of Arkansas, North Dakota and Canada. He doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk as well.

One skill John learned along the way was cooking, and folks in the know never turn down the chance to eat a meal prepared on his grill or stove. He runs an advertising specialty business, Mirage Promotions, boasting many clients from the hunting and fishing industry. One perk his customers look forward to is having him grill and cook for them.

When I asked John if I could share this simple fish stew recipe, he gladly agreed, and I saved it for the fall.

John credits his cooking style to his mother, who he watched in the kitchen often. He said she cooked “out of her head” and rarely used a written recipe. He doesn’t use bacon or fatback, but substitutes butter instead. When you taste this recipe, you’ll understand why I requested it.

John Hurst’s EZ Fish Stew

Here’s a quick and easy way to make small batches of fish stew that work well with just about any fish. I usually prefer to make fish stew with firmer fish like red drum, stripers and king mackerel. But I’ve experimented with using different fish in this recipe, and I haven’t been disappointed. I used whiting for the photos in this article.

I used a pound of fish for this recipe. You can make it with a little more or less, which will make it a tad thicker or thinner. A pound of fish is enough to get a piece in almost every bite.

The onion is wilted to begin the cooking, and John’s recipe calls for doing this in butter rather than bacon or fatback grease. He said it’s healthier and I didn’t question it. I add a little coarse ground pepper to the onions when wilting them. For those needing a closer measurement than a heaping spoonful of butter, it’s not quite 2 tablespoons, and I use real salted butter.

The seasonings are where personal tastes come into play. I use some coarse ground black pepper with the onions, and I like the taste of Old Bay Seasoning and crushed red pepper. Remember with Old Bay that it’s easy to add a little, but impossible to take it away.

I believe hot sauce is a table condiment, just like salt and pepper. Some folks add it, while others don’t. At least one hot sauce option should be on the table with this.

This recipe is for a small batch for a single meal. I have already eaten it several times and have moved it to the front of my recipe collection. That’s the best recommendation I can make.


1- pound Fish fillet

1 large can Diced tomatoes

1 small can Tomato soup

1 Onion (sliced)

2 Celery sticks (cut)

1/2 Bell pepper (cut)

1 Heaping tablespoon butter

2 Heavy shakes Old Bay

1 Pinch crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Options: Hot sauce, eggs, chunks of smoked link sausage.


  1. Cut the fish into bite size pieces.
  2. Slice the onion and cut up the bell pepper and celery.
  3. Start with the butter and onions in a pot and cook them down to half at medium heat.
  4. Add the diced tomato and tomato soup, plus 1 cup of water from the soup can.
  5. Stir and add vegetables and seasonings – still at medium heat.
  6. Add a small piece of fish for further seasoning.
  7. Simmer until all ingredients are cooked down.
  8. Bring to a slight boil, add fish and stir while the pot comes back to a slight boil.
  9. Cut the heat and it’s ready to serve.

Start with salad

I like salads and begin this meal with a green salad or lettuce wedge whenever possible. It also pairs well with corn on the cob or roasted potato wedges. Many folks feel the appropriate bread to go with fish stew is slices of white loaf bread. But I like cornbread and think most folks will like it also. This is a full meal and should fill you up. But if you feel the need for dessert, try something light, like bread or rice pudding.

Many fish stew recipes call for adding chunks of smoked link sausage. Another option is cracking a few whole eggs into the broth near the end. You can do either of those with this preparation, but they aren’t included in the recipe. It works well without them. If you use them, the sausage will cook while the stew is simmering, and the eggs will take just a few minutes.

Concerning the bell peppers, different people have varying opinions of bell peppers. I’m not the biggest fan of the green ones and feel they sometimes develop a sharp edge to their flavor. I think the red, orange or yellow bell peppers are milder. So I tend to use them instead of the green ones. I used an orange one for this meal.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1171 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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