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Mama and I used to play cards. A lot of cards. Out of the blue she would say, “Missy, let’s have a party!” She’d make a snack tray of pickles, cheese, crackers and banana sandwiches cut into quarters, fix her a drink of vodka and coke, and grab the cards.

Before she taught me to play Rummy, we would play Go Fish. I always say my daddy taught me to play cards, but that’s only half true. He taught me to play poker, fairly well I might add, but mama was the card shark in every other game. There was just no beating her unless she felt sorry for you and let you win. Otherwise, she’d leave you broke and naked.

We usually played cards on Saturday nights and cards always went well with one pot meals. Mama would make a big pot of spaghetti or chicken and dumplings. I’ve kept mama’s one pot Saturday night traditions, like this amazing seafood stew loaded with shellfish, in a rich, hearty broth. Served with a good crusty bread, this makes a filling meal.

Mama loved seafood and she would have loved this one pot dinner. Especially playing cards on a Saturday night. Since I was going to hear “Go Fish” a hundred times in one night anyway, this would have been a pretty appropriate meal. Thankfully, as I grew older, I could join her in the vodka. Go Fish can be some pretty intense stuff!



Adapted from Bon Appetit


  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small (or 1/2 large) fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1 pound Cherrystone Clams
  • 1 pound large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined, or frozen king crab legs, thawed
  • 1 pound cleaned squid, thawed if frozen, bodies cut into 1/2′ rings, tentacles left whole
  • Country-style bread

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Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, fennel seed, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and fennel are soft, about 12 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes with juices, wine, clam juice, and 1 cup water. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Stir in clams, mussels, and shrimp and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Cook until shellfish open and seafood is cooked through, about 5 minutes (discard mussels or clams that do not open). Serve with toasted, crusty bread.

While you’re int he mood for shellfish, throw in some steamed oysters. Ain’t she a beauty? Mama would have played me another round for this one!


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Life’s too short to eat ugly food. Bon Appetit y’all!