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Bacon-Infused Carolina Fish Muddle

['1 teaspoon vegetable oil', '1 pound wild American shrimp, peeled, deveined, shells reserved', '8 sprigs thyme', '4 bay leaves', '2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes with juices', '1 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/2" cubes, or thick-cut bacon, sliced into 1/2" strips', '4 celery stalks, finely chopped', '3 carrots, finely chopped', '2 onions, finely chopped', '1 leek (white and pale-green parts only), finely chopped', '3 garlic cloves, finely chopped', '1/2 jalapeño (with seeds), finely chopped', '1 pound new potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2" cubes', 'Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper', 'Hot pepper sauce (such as Cholula or Tabasco; optional)', '1 pound black or striped bass fillet, cut into 1"-2" pieces', '1 pound black or red grouper fillet, cut into 1"-2" pieces', '6 slices baguette, toasted', '6 cups cooked stone-ground grits or rice', 'Chopped flat-leaf parsley']

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring constantly, until pink. Add 3 cups water and bring to a simmer. Cook gently until liquid is reduced to 2 cups. Strain stock, discarding shells. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill stock and shrimp separately.
Tie thyme sprigs and bay leaves into a bundle with kitchen twine; set aside. Pulse tomatoes with juices in a food processor until chunky purée forms; set aside. Heat bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until some of fat is rendered and bacon is just beginning to crisp, 10-15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain; reserve 2 tablespoons bacon drippings for croutons.
Add celery, carrots, onions, and leek to pot. Increase heat to medium and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeño, and herb bundle; cook for 2 minutes. Add reserved tomato purée; cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes. Add shrimp stock (or, if omitting the first step, add 2 cups fish stock or clam juice) and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes and cooked bacon and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Season stew with salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce, if desired.
Add fish and shrimp; bring to a gentle simmer. Cover; cook until fish and shrimp are just opaque in center, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, brush bacon fat onto toast to make croutons. Ladle muddle into bowls over grits or rice, sprinkle with parsley, and garnish each bowl with a crouton.

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