2 whole redfish, 16-18 inch average, scaled and gutted

4 strips centercut bacon, cut in halves

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

3 tsp. lemon pepper

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 tsps. Frank Davis Seafood Seasoning

1/4 cup peanut oil

3 cups yellow onions in half-rings

2/3 cup pre-chopped seasoning mix

6 cloves freshly minced garlic

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes

1 can diced Rotel tomatoes with chilies

1/4 cup finely minced Italian flatleaf parsley

2 Tbsp. Lee & Perrin's Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tbsp. Creole mustard

1 fresh lemon, squeezed then diced

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions as garnish

6 cups cooked white rice, buttered and parsleyed

First, with a couple of paper towels pat the fish dry inside and out and place them in a shallow-sided baking pan on the countertop (I like to first lay a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil into the pan it makes covering the fish easy and speeds cleanup). Then lightly sprinkle each one thoroughly with the salt, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon-pepper, red pepper flakes, and seafood seasoning. Then, before setting the pan aside momentarily, make several cuts crosswise in the top of each fish and push a piece of bacon in each cut (this is called barding and it helps to baste and flavor the fish as they bake).

In the meantime, take a heavy aluminum 12' anodized or Teflon-coated Dutch oven and heat the peanut oil to sizzling. Then drop in the onions and the seasoning mix and saute everything together until the onions begin to caramelize. At this point, toss in the garlic, stir it into the mixture, and continue to cook over a high heat until the onions become richly browned (be careful, though, not to let the garlic burn!).

Now reduce the heat to medium and pour in the fresh chopped tomatoes, the Rotel tomatoes (including the water in the can), the minced parsley, the Worcestershire sauce, the Creole mustard, and the chopped up lemon (essentially you're making a 'flavoring courtbouillion'). Then when the stock comes up to a slow simmer, take the pot off the fire and spoon the mixture liberally but evenly over each fish in the baking pan. Then slide the pan into a pre-heated 375 degree oven and lightly place a sheet of aluminum foil over the fish do not seal the edges. You can figure it will take about 35-40 minutes for the drum to bake, for the natural drippings to 'sweat' from the veggies, and for the fish to begin making its own succulent sauce.

By the way, you should bake the fish covered only for the first 15 minutes or so. After that, remove the foil and baste them with the pan drippings every 5 minutes to help them cook through and through and to keep them moist.

When the dish is ready (and you'll know it's done when the meat flakes easily with a fork), take the pan from the oven and set it in the center of the table. Serve pieces of the fish (watch for bones!) and the accompanying sauce over plates of steamed rice. You're going to find that the natural flavors are so intense they'll be every bit as delectable as the old traditional baked fish recipes made with tomato paste, tomato sauce, and red wine.

Of course, you certainly won't ever be able to convince anyone that this is really good for you!

Chef's Hints

1. You don't need just drum to do this recipe it can be done with almost any non-oily whitefish (trout, catfish, flounder, orange roughy, tilapia, cod, haddock, sheepshead, and redfish).

2. If you'd prefer that the sauce weren't spicy, simply substitute regular diced tomatoes for the Rotels with chilies and add your own heat by stirring in smaller amounts of crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, or a generous splash of Frank Davis Premium Hot Sauce.

3. Lemon pepper comes in both the salted and unsalted variety. If you need to restrict your sodium intake, buy the salt-free kind. If not, use the regular variety in this recipe.

4. The spice quantities included in the recipe serve only as a guideline. So if you want to add more or less of the flavoring ingredients do so without any reservation. Just keep in mind that it will affect the intensity of the final flavor after the dish is baked.

5. If you lined the pan with aluminum foil as I suggest earlier, you won't need an extra sheet of foil to cover the drum for the first 15 minutes. Just make the lining sheet long enough to not only cover the bottom but to fold over the top of the pan.

6. For a little more intensity in the final flavor, you can add a little extra chopped bacon to the seasoning mix when you saute it.

7. You can also 'finish off' the pan sauce by stirring about a half stick of butter into it just before you ladle it over the hot rice. Sure it's a couple of extra calories, but oooh-weee the taste.