Paul Fitch owes his skills in the kitchen to the two most important women in his life. But not for the reasons you might think.
Fitch grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana — Cajun country — to a mom who was a great cook but who didn’t like standing around the stove all day.
“She cooked our breakfasts and dinner on school days but took most weekends off,” he says. “So if we wanted a hot meal on Saturday, we had to fix it ourselves.”
Thus, a chef was born.
Years later, work schedules dictated he take over in the kitchen for his wife, Mary Margaret. She didn’t mind. He got off work earlier and worked closer to home. He had supper on the table by the time she pulled into the driveway.
They later spent nine years on a 33-foot catamaran — Mary Margaret calls it “a floating apartment” — honing Fitch’s kitchen skills even more. Aboard ship, he cooked, she cleaned. They kept the routine when they moved to Green Valley.
He started young
Fitch grew to love Cajun cooking from his youth in southwestern Louisiana. When he was in grad school in Arizona, finding a good Cajun restaurant was difficult and expensive, he says. So he went to a grocery store, bought what he needed and learned how to make honest-to-goodness Cajun in his own kitchen.
Fitch says it’s just flat-out wrong to saddle Cajun cooking with a “hot and spicy” label. He says chefs started “mainstreaming” Cajun cooking years ago, throwing in tabasco or cayenne pepper and calling it good. It wasn’t, he said. At least not the kind of good he remembered. “This was an aberration, as the Cajun cooking I grew up eating was tasty and spicy, but it was not mouth-burning hot. My recipes are delicious but not hot,” he says. “The dishes are flavorful and enjoyable and different from other cuisines in their unique, South Louisiana way.”
Fitch is partial to Tony Chachere’s seasoning and says there are other great choices locally or online.
Fitch’s Crawfish Pie comes out of the oven “hot as asphalt,” Mary Margaret says.
Let it rest, then it’s perfect.
Friends have accused them of trying to pass off bait as dinner when they see the crawfish tails. But to them, that’s real food, and they offer no apologies. The perfect blend of onion, bell pepper and seasonings delivers all things Louisiana — except the humidity.
As for his Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice, Fitch says there’s a reason it was prepared on Mondays. That was wash day for most families, and it was something mom could throw in the cooker in the morning, not have to think about it, and have it ready by dinner time.
1 pkg. crawfish tails (can be purchased at Walmart in seafood freezer section)
1 large onion chopped
1 large bell pepper chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄4 pound butter
1⁄2 cup chopped parsley
Tony Chachere's seasoning
Cornstarch or “Instant Roux”
1 Can “Golden Mushroom” soup
Package of 2 refrigerated pie crusts
Under medium heat, melt butter in large skillet. Add Bell Pepper and sauté for 4 minutes. Add onion and sauté additional 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 more minutes. Add Golden Mushroom soup and blend for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add crawfish and blend for 5 minutes. Add parsley and blend. Add cornstarch to thicken as required. (Pie filling should NOT be too soupy).
Place half of the pie crust dough in a 9-inch pie pan. Fill with cooled filling. Place top crust on pie, moisten and seal edges. Cut 2 or 3 vents in top crust.
Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees; lower oven to 375 and cook for 30 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown.
Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
1 pound red beans (kidney beans)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 large bell pepper (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
3 pork (ham) hocks
6 strips bacon cut into small pieces
1 link andouille sausage cut into quarter-inch “rounds”
1 link smoked pork sausage cut into quarter-inch “rounds”
1 bunch green onions (tops chopped for garnish)
Tony Chachere's seasoning (or other Cajun Seasoning)
2 cups white rice cooked
1 package of slow cooker liners
Soak beans overnight to soften. Rinse and drain.
Rend the bacon in a large skillet until almost browned. Add bell pepper and sauté for 4 minutes. Add onion and sauté for 4 more minutes. Add Garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. Season with Tony Chachere's to taste.
Line slow cooker. Place hocks in bottom of cooker. Add in above sautéed mixture. Add sausage. Pour beans over all and set cooker on “low” heat. Add water until just to top of beans.
Cook for 8 hours until beans are soft, even mushy. Check occasionally to ensure water remains at proper height. Do not add
too much water, the result should be a thick soup. Stir to mix ingredients after the first couple of hours.
Prior to serving, separate meat from bones/joints of hocks and return meat to cooker. Caution, hocks will be HOT!
Serve in bowls over the rice and garnish with chopped onion tops.