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Potlikker Fish Stew at Zingerman’s Roadhouse

A big bowl of Southern comfort in this wonderful seafood stew.

A big bowl of Southern comfort
in this wonderful seafood stew

Without a doubt, one of my favorite foods from the Roadhouse—and I get to eat a lot of good food—is the Creole Potlikker Fish Stew. We’ve been serving it for nearly a decade now, and with each passing week, I think it accumulates even more loyal fans. In the spirit of Natural Law #10, since no one else (to my knowledge) makes this dish anywhere in the country, Potlikker Fish Stew is wholly unfamiliar to most new customers. Its strength? It’s well on its way to becoming a signature dish, worthy, I believe, of national attention.

While hardly any of us up here in the north have ever heard of it, down South, potlikker is pretty much an iconic culinary staple. For those who are just now learning of it, potlikker is the broth from the long-cooked, loaded up with bacon, and collard greens we make every day at the Roadhouse. It’s basically a bacon-spiked, slightly spicy, vegetable broth. In the South, potlikker is powerful stuff—the Southern equivalent of chicken soup, the way I see it.

Aside from its socio-culinary context, potlikker has an important role to play in American history. Culinary historian, accomplished author, and friend, John T. Edge explains its significance in American political history:

The Potlikker and Cornpone Debate of 1931 began when Julian Harris, an editor of the Atlanta Constitution, verbally assailed Huey Long, governor of Louisiana and United States senator-elect, over the question of whether cornbread should be dunked or crumbled into potlikker. The debate quickly escalated, and, for approximately twenty-three days, between February 13 and March 8 of 1931, engaged most of the South and much of the nation. Extensive newspaper accounts and correspondence from the time illuminate the primary themes of gender, race, class, and regional chauvinism that inform this debate.

To make this special Creole Fish Stew, we use the potlikker to poach some seafood—selections vary daily, and you’re welcome to ask. Usually, it’s three or four fish, and often some of those amazing day boat scallops we get in from the East Coast. The whole dish comes together beautifully, all poured and bubbling hot over the amazing traditionally-grown and stone-ground grits we get from Anson Mills. Dishes like this have West African roots—a fish stew served over a starch; lots of fish, lots of leafy greens. Swing by the Roadhouse, order a bowl, breathe in the restorative aromas, and enjoy a moment of quiet, comfort, and calm while you eat.

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P.S. If you come late afternoon, the Roadhouse Happy Hour runs from 2 to 6 pm, Monday through Friday. A host of drink deals, special Texas tacos, fried pickles, and more!

P.P.S. Here’s a longer piece I wrote about potlikker about 15 years ago.

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