1 stick butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups onions, finely diced
1 cup celery, finely diced
3/4 cup bell pepper, finely diced
6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 red potatoes, peeled and diced
3 pints Half-N-Half Cream + 1 pint whole milk
1 can Campbell's Cream of Shrimp Soup, 10-3/4 oz.
1 can Rotel Tomatoes, 10 oz., with liquids
1 can creamed corn, 15 oz.
6 trimmed redfish fillets (bloodline removed)
1 whole bay leaf
3 tsp. Frank Davis Seafood Seasoning
1 tsp. salt, if needed to taste
1/2 cup cocktail sherry
4 fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced for garnish
3/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced for garnish
1/2 cup parsley, minced for garnish
Stack of multigrain wheat saltines

First, take a large soup pot or a 5-quart Dutch oven, drop in the stick of butter, and heat it over a medium flame until it fully melts (but don't let it burn). Then, a little at a time, begin whisking in the all-purpose flour until it becomes velvety smooth. This is going to take a little while, so don't go to rushing it!

The trick is. . .you don't want the flour to brown at all! You want to make nothing but a white butter roux.

When the roux smoothes (which should happen in about five minutes or so), drop in the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, mushrooms and potatoes. The introduction of the vegetables into the pot does two things (1) it softens the vegetables in the hot roux, and (2) it reduces the temperature of the roux so that it cannot brown.

Immediately after the vegetables and roux are thoroughly combined, it's time to begin adding the ingredients which will make this dish a soup the Half-N-Half, the whole milk, the cream of shrimp, the Rotel tomatoes, and the creamed corn. Just pour these into the mix and begin dissolving everything into the roux. At this point, it's also time to begin dropping in the fish fillets a few at a time so that they can incorporate into the cream base and release their liquids into the stock. Finally, flip in the bay leaf, reduce the fire to low, and simmer the dish until all the individual flavors marry (which should take about 45 to 50 minutes).

Now note something here: (1) plan to stir the mixture every 10 minutes or so to keep the cream base from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching; (2) don't worry about breaking up the redfish you're supposed to break it up into 'flakes;' and (3) hold off on seasoning the soup until about the last 10 minutes of cooking time the other ingredients may contain enough salt and pepper to suit your taste. Remember, the dish should be spicy. . .but it should never burn your lips and tongue.

When you're ready to eat, stir in the sherry wine (and a little extra milk if you find the soup to be a little too thick to your liking), along with the parsley, and allow the dish to simmer for five more minutes so that everything gently comes together in texture and consistency. All that's left is to ladle out the finished product into hefty soup bowls and garnish with a sprinkling of the diced tomatoes and the sliced green onions. To finish off the presentation all you need is a stack of buttered multigrain saltine crackers.

Chef Notes:

To make this dish 'SugarBusters' acceptable, simply substitute whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour and eliminate the diced potatoes.

Be careful not to cook the soup 'hard' once the Half-N-Half is added. Hard boiling will cause the milk and the cream to separate, thereby curdling the cream base. Best advice is to barely simmer the soup at every step of the recipe. It's okay for you to use a little more or a little less Half-N-Half in the soup, depending upon taste and the thickness you desire. I personally like to thin out the cream and roux with concentrated chicken stock if I'm not doing the soup meatless for Lent. The richness increases immeasurably.

Be sure all the bloodline is trimmed off of the redfish fillets. Trimmed, the fish will give the soup a very delicate flavor; untrimmed, or carelessly trimmed, the soup will inherit a 'fishy' taste once cooking begins.

While the recipe calls for two teaspoons of my seafood seasoning plus another teaspoon of salt, you may want to adjust the quantities according to your tastes. I'd recommend you start off by using half of that amount of seasoning, and increasing it as necessary. It's always easy to add a little more; it's very difficult to take any of it out!

If you can't find my seasonings where you shop, you can order them by clicking on the blue banner at the bottom of the IN THE KITCHEN page on this website.

For a richer variation, broil about 6 redfish fillets (which you spice up with olive oil, Frank Davis Grill-N-Broil, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika, plus a splash of white line and a drizzle of lemon juice), chop them into chunks, and drop them down into the soup along with the raw redfish you added earlier. This variance produces a more robust intensity which is nothing less than truly gourmet.