Fresh fish and good food are always cooking in this kitchen on the bayou
When it comes to the kitchen, Jimmy and Dana Bethune each have their own talents.
“Jimmy is the main cook and I do the side dishes and desserts,” Dana said. “He fishes a lot, so seafood is often on the menu, as well as barbecue, baked chicken, pork chops, corned beef — it’s all good.”
The couple’s backyard is on the edge of Highland Bayou in Hitchcock, making it a primo spot for reeling in redfish, speckled trout, flounder and lots of crab.
“I fish every day,” Jimmy said. “Since the bayou juts out into Galveston Bay, the fishing is great here, so that means really fresh fish.”
Jimmy usually fries his catch in one of his prized cast-iron skillets.
“I have about 10 pieces of cast iron that are very old and have interesting histories,” he said. “You can tell the age by looking at the bottom of the skillet. For instance, if a piece has a heat ring on the very outside bottom edge, it was made for a wood-burning stove. The notches in the heat ring can also determine the age, and in some instances, you can tell the age by the shape of the handle.”
The Bethunes bought their home — a former fish camp built in 1974 — in 1999, but didn’t move in until 2005.
“We had a house in La Marque, and this was going to be our bay home, but we were coming out here so much, we decided to make it our permanent residence,” Jimmy said.
When they bought it, the house was in need of remodeling, especially in the kitchen, Dana said.
“We removed the old paneling, installed Sheetrock, added bead board and new cabinets — painted white — and removed the popcorn ceiling,” she said. “We left the kitchen island, but covered it with Silestone, as well as the countertops. We added a backsplash of soft blue tiles and river pebbles and painted the furr down royal blue. The blue-and-white theme carries over into our living room.”
A dining room table and chairs from Pier 1 Imports is part of the kitchen and is the hot spot of the house, they said.
“We like to sit here, have coffee and plan menus,” Dana said. “The china cabinet is full of treasures, like oyster plates, cut glass and a lobster tray that belonged to my parents. I also have a nice collection of David Winter miniature cottages on display.”
A patio door opens to an outdoor deck and dock where the Bethunes keep their boat, outdoor grill, outdoor furniture and fishing equipment. Stairs lead to a lower level where a spiffy bar with neon lights, beach décor and chrome barstools offer a casual spot to unwind.
“My parents were country people, so I don’t fix a lot of fancy dishes,” Jimmy said. “I like to be innovative, but also keep it simple with dishes like chicken and dumplings that I roll out, using a pizza cutter to make the long strips, just like my mother did. I also make a pretty good gumbo, chicken-fried steak with authentic cream gravy, chicken piccata, burgers and fish tacos.”
Dana adds fresh asparagus or mashed potatoes to the meals and a dessert of apple pie or Mexican wedding cake, she said.
Dana and Jimmy both grew up in La Marque and attended the same high school, but never dated until later in life when they re-discovered each other, they said. Now, married for 34 years, they’re semi-retired and enjoy their little bay house that brings them so much pleasure.
“Our area of Hitchcock is called Highland Bayou Estates and sits across the bayou from the original Bayou Vista developed in the 1960s, so we’re kind of a hidden gem,” Jimmy said. “I fish here every day and crab during crab season and make a pretty mean crab cake.”
Go-to ingredients: Holy trinity — celery, bell pepper, onion
Best way to use spices: Buy them whole and grind as needed.
Kitchen secret: For skillets hard to clean, add warm water and place a dryer sheet on the surface of the water; let sit 10-15 minutes. Wipe with wet sponge.
1 pound crabmeat
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Louisiana Hot Sauce
Half sleeve of saltine crackers
1 cup panko crumbs
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Mix all wet ingredients except crabmeat. Crush saltine crackers by hand, adding more if needed.
Gently fold in crabmeat and form into patties. Put on parchment paper and refrigerate for 1 hour or more.
Press cold patties in panko crumbs and sauté in butter/oil at 350 F until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Serve with a sauce of 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon horseradish and a dash of ketchup.