Fish Stew for the explorer in all of us

I don't own a boat, although I have a modest investment in the Kingston Ferry
By John Owen | Apr 18, 2013

You could say that salt water flows through my veins.  For evidence I might direct your attention to the Edmonds marina.  Have you spotted the sporty blue sailboat that looks capable of conquering the waves far beyond the Straits of Juan de Fuca?   Yeah, that's the one, moored in a spit near Olympic Park.

That's not mine.

In fact I don't own a boat, although I have a modest investment in the Kingston Ferry.

But my knowledge extends far beyond the local waters.  My expertise was achieved while standing alongside the Ballard Locks, watching weekend sailors sending frantic and sometimes-obscene semaphore signals to spouses who mistakenly affixed bowlines to tackle boxes, the handles of portable TV sets or to the legs of family pets.

You spot some fascinating objects hanging from the walls of the locks when the water runs out.

The sight would confound Captain Horatio Hornblower, one of my literary naval heroes who guided the Indefatigable off the coast of Spain during the Napoleonic wars.

I've never seen a Ship of the Line in the Edmonds Marina.  I'm pretty sure I'd recognize one if it sailed past the fishing pier and executed a sharp turn into the marina fueling dock.

Typically such a warship carried 128 cannons on three decks, and a crew of approximately 1300 sailors.  And it would be identified by lettering on the stern identifying its home port.

One of my idle activities while roaming the Edmonds Marina is to identify these home ports.

Occasionally I'm mystified.  Last summer I spotted a yacht that claimed to live in Denver.  I consulted my navigational charts from AAA and can find no direct waterway leading from the Gila River through Roaring Fork, Dirty Devil and Bullhead City all the way to Shell Creek, Lake Ballinger or Brackett's Landing.

Another visiting yacht in the Edmonds Marina last summer listed Toronto as its home port. The Panama Canal seemed an illogical detour.

My wife suggested the Northwest Passage but I seem to remember that Spencer Tracy tried that route in a movie of the same name.

He endured starvation, exhaustion and lots of slogging through frozen mud and he never did make a landing anywhere near Harbor Square.  As far as I can determine, he also lacked a decent recipe for fish stew.

The following first appeared in the Intermediate Eater's Seattle Cookbook under the title of fish stew Seattle.  It also works on the shores of Snohomish County.  We could call it:


Explorer's  Fish Stew


1 small onion, minced

1 can (number 2 1/2) chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons chili sauce

1/2 teaspoon Italian herbs

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 minced clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 chopped stalks celery

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup dry, white wine

2 carrots, chopped

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon celery salt

16 prawns

2 pounds clams in shells

1 pound red snapper

pint of clam nectar or chicken bouillon


Sauté the onions and garlic in hot olive oil in a large soup pot. When soft add all other ingredients except the fish, prawns and clams. (I usually buy my clams at 99 Ranch Market.)

Let the stock simmer at least an hour.

Shell the prawns.  When the hour is up, add the prawns to the pot along with chunks of red snapper.  Let stew simmer another 15 minutes. Then plunk in the clams.  Cover pot and simmer until all the clams have opened.

Serves four or multiply ingredients if you are expecting Horatio Hornblower and the crew of the Indefatigable.

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