Marie's Kitchen: Good-neighbor cooking with Mary Bayliss


Special to the Coastal Point • Marie Cook: Mary Bayliss with her ‘sous chef’ Sassy Jane. In the background is one of Bayliss’ favorite treasures, a stained-glass Celtic knot.Special to the Coastal Point • Marie Cook: Mary Bayliss with her ‘sous chef’ Sassy Jane. In the background is one of Bayliss’ favorite treasures, a stained-glass Celtic knot.Mary Bayliss loves to cook and she loves to share. She is one of those downright good cooks that neighbors love; they never go hungry!

Mary was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Bethesda, Md., in an area known as Edgemoor.

“I’m amazed at how many people I encounter here that are from Bethesda and D.C.,” she said. She lived in Alexandria, Va., for 30 years and moved to Millville because several of her friends retired here.

At a young age, Mary’s mother developed breast cancer, and Mary began helping in the kitchen.

“After Mom died in the summer of 1960, I became the primary cook, because my older sister had a job and my older brother was doing guy things.” Mary also had a younger sister who was only 7 years old and “busy with Ginny dolls.”

She discovered that she loved cooking and, at the age of 14, purchased her first cookbook — the famous red-and-white-checkered Betty Crocker cookbook. “It was like a bible to me,” she said, “and I used it for years, until it literally fell apart.”

One of Mary’s signature dishes is Sausage with Peppers & Onions over Linguine.

“It’s great for a party, because it’s almost a one-dish meal, and you can make tons of it and still have leftovers,” she said. A second favorite is her recipe for Pearl Couscous Salad — a recipe she adapted from instructions from “the generous chefs at Off the Hook restaurant in Bethany Beach.” And a third oft-requested recipe is Paul Prudhomme’s Blue Cheese Dressing. All three recipes are in today’s column.

Mary’s maiden name is Flaherty, so with solid Irish roots, she’s primarily a meat-and-potatoes cook.

“However, over the years I’ve expanded my interests into anything that tastes good, looks good and can serve several people,” she said. “I like to cook for other people who don’t cook much themselves because of health problems or who just like to eat someone else’s cooking for a change.”

Mary’s husband died in 1983.

“I never really considered getting married again,” she said, “so my immediate family consists of a Pomeranian named Sassy Jane. One of my friends kindly pointed out that, many years ago, there was a porn star in Baltimore with the same name.”

By the time this column prints, Sassy Jane will have a brother — Rocky — another Pomeranian who is 3 months old. “I’m excited about having a new dog, but at the same time I’m wondering what in the world am I doing,” she said with a laugh.

Mary retired after working more than 40 years at a job she loved, at George Washington University.

“I retired as assistant director of finance in the budget office. I was able to meet and work with all the constituents of the university — staff, faculty and students. I made many close friendships that continue today.”

Because she likes to try new recipes, Mary often cooks several nights a week. She also enjoys entertaining.

“I usually have a Christmas party, a St. Patrick’s Day party and casual dinner parties with several friends. Everyone seems to love pasta dishes, so I make the sausage, peppers and onions, or Baked Ziti. I also serve Country Fried Steak with mashed potatoes and green beans, which I consider real comfort food. And I like to make Shrimp Creole and Cajun Meatloaf from Paul Prudhomme’s ‘Louisiana Kitchen Cookbook.’”

After reading this list, am I the only one who is salivating?

I can see why Mary makes her signature recipe for Sausage and Peppers over Linguine for a big party. She says that it serves 8 to 10 people, but with salad and other sides and dessert, I’ll bet it serves a lot more.

Sausage & Peppers
over Linguine

Ingredients:

• 5 to 6 large sweet Italian sausages, casings removed

• 5 to 6 large hot Italian sausages; casings removed

• 6 to 8 bell peppers — red, yellow and orange — thinly sliced

• 1 to 2 onions, thinly sliced

• 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

• 2 cans (14 ounces each) diced tomatoes

• 2 jars prepared spaghetti sauce (I recommend Rozzana Marinara Sauce and/or Classico Basil/Garlic.)

• 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste

• 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, or to taste

• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

• Salt and pepper to taste

• Enough linguine for a crowd

Method for Sausage & Peppers over Linguine:

Remove sausages from casings and break meat into small pieces. Cook over medium heat until slightly browned and cooked through. Cook in batches and drain in a colander to eliminate fat, reserving the fat from the final batch in the pan. Set aside.

After the last batch of sausage is cooked, in the remaining fat in the pan begin to cook the peppers and onions. These, too, may need to be cooked in batches. Cook until soft and tender so they can easily be cut. This will take about 20 minutes or less. Set aside.

Make the sauce. In a large pot, combine crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and tomato paste. Add Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat on medium heat until heated through. Add sausage, onions and peppers. Heat through.

Cook linguine according to package directions; drain. Top linguine with the tomato sauce/onion/pepper mixture. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

Like Mary herself, her Shrimp Salad recipe is free-wheeling. She lists the ingredients, but other than the shrimp, she leaves the measurements to you, depending on how many shrimp you’re using and individual taste buds.

Shrimp Salad

Ingredients:

• 1 package shrimp (16/20)

• Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise

• Dill weed

• Celery seed

• Capers with some juice

• Curry powder

Method for Shrimp Salad:

Remove tails from shrimp. The amount of the rest of the ingredients depends on how many shrimp are being prepared. Use enough mayonnaise to cover shrimp; then add a moderate amount of capers with some juice to get the consistency of salad dressing.

Add dill weed and celery seed and a scant amount of curry powder (about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon). Mix well.

Chill for 2 to 3 hours before serving. Serve over a bed of lettuce. Yield: 4 servings.

As stated above, Mary’s Pearl Couscous Salad recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from Off the Hook restaurant in Bethany Beach. She uses toasted Israeli-style couscous, which she purchases online from Rice Select (www.riceselect.com; phone 1-800-993-RICE or 1-800-232-RICE). Again, the ingredients are based upon how many you plan to serve.

Pearl Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

• Couscous

• Chimichurri Sauce (recipe follows)

• Baby arugula

• Red grape tomatoes sliced in half

• Yellow grape tomatoes sliced in half (optional, but nice for color)

• Corn — fresh is best, but canned is OK, drained

• Capers, drained

Method for Pearl Couscous Salad:

Cook couscous as directed on package. Let cool a bit and then add chimichurri a bit at a time to taste. Do not oversaturate. You want a light green color.

To prepare the salad, put some arugula into the serving bowl. Then add some of the tomatoes, corn, capers and some couscous; toss. Then repeat the layers — arugula, tomatoes, corn, capers, couscous. Toss each time so that the arugula gets coated with the chimichurri, but just lightly. Chill for at least a couple hours. This dish is best served chilled, rather than at room temperature.

The couscous and chimichurri mixture can be made and stored overnight in the refrigerator, but it may need some additional chimichurri when putting the salad together, as the couscous will have absorbed some of the sauce overnight. If the couscous is lumpy, just gently and carefully break it apart. Do a final toss to make sure the arugula is coated and that the couscous looks like the main ingredient. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

Weber’s “Real Grilling” cookbook — a favorite of Mary’s — is the source for her Chimichurri Sauce recipe.

Chimichurri Sauce

Ingredients:

• 4 large garlic cloves

• 1 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves

• 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

• 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

• 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

• 1/4 cup rice vinegar

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce

Method for Chimichurri Sauce:

In a food processor with the motor running, mince the garlic. Add parsley, cilantro and basil. Pulse to finely chop the herbs. With the processor running, slowly add the oil in a thin stream, and then add the remaining ingredients. Yield: About 1-1/2 cups.

“Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen” cookbook is also a go-to recipe source for Mary. This recipe, which makes about a quart of dressing, is versatile. She uses it not only on salads (especially nice on a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce), as well as a dip for vegetables or chips, or with blackened chicken.

Regarding the one raw egg in this Blue Cheese Dressing, Mary said, “I’ve been making this dressing for years without any issues.” When I was growing up, every Christmas my mom made eggnog using a dozen raw eggs, and I’ve lived to tell the story, so I’m with Mary and Paul Prudhomme on this one!

Blue Cheese Dressing

Ingredients:

• 1 egg

• 1/2 cup chopped onions

• 1 teaspoon minced garlic

• 2 cups vegetable oil

• 1/2 cup buttermilk

• 2 teaspoons white pepper

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)

• 1/2 pound blue cheese, coarsely crumbled

Method for Blue Cheese Dressing:

In a food processor, combine the egg, onions and garlic; process for a few seconds until well mixed. With the machine still running, add oil in a thin, steady stream. Then add buttermilk, white pepper, salt and cayenne, and process a few seconds more until well mixed, pushing the sides down once with a rubber spatula. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add the cheese. Mix with a metal whisk to break up any large lumps, but leave the cheese somewhat lumpy. Refrigerate until ready to use. Yield: About 1 quart.

Mary receives raves when she serves her moist and flavorful Baked “Fried” Chicken, a recipe featured on a former Food Network show featuring Paula Deen. Since I can’t eat chicken, I’m going to use this formula for turkey breast cutlets since they are already a quarter-inch thick.

Baked ‘Fried’ Chicken

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded to 1/4-inch thickness.

Wet Ingredients:

• 1/4 cup Dijon mustard

• 2 tablespoons water

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Mix all ingredients well.

Dry Ingredients:

• 2 cups Panko crumbs (more or less, depending on how many chicken breasts you are using)

• 2 tablespoons EVOO

• 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Mix all ingredients well.

Method for Baked “Fried” Chicken:

Pat chicken breasts dry. Dredge first in wet ingredients. Then dredge in dry ingredients, covering entire breast and patting ingredients into the pieces of chicken. Place coated chicken breasts on a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes. Yield, 4 servings.

If you like clam chowder, Mary stands by this one. It’s from the Food Network show featuring Dave Lieberman, a personal chef and New York food critic.

Clam Chowder

Ingredients:

• 4 tablespoons butter

• 1 large yellow or white onion, diced

• 2 to 4 celery stalks, peeled and diced

• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

• 2 bay leaves

• 3 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced

• 4 cans chopped clams in juice

• 1 cup heavy cream

• Salt and pepper to taste

Method for Clam Chowder:

Melt butter over medium-high heat and sauté onions and celery for about 10 minutes until tender. Add 3 tablespoons flour and blend. Add chicken broth and bay leaves; stir well. Add diced potatoes; cover and cook for approximately 20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Add the 4 cans of clams and juice and stir. Add the heavy cream; simmer; add salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves.

For a thicker chowder, use an immersion hand blender to blend the potatoes, but leave some whole. Yield: 4 servings.

Mary shares a great tip with us: I like potato salad, but I rarely make it, because it’s annoying and time consuming to do all the potato prep. I now purchase a bag of the new potato steamers. I prefer the small red-skinned steamers, because you don’t even have to remove the skin. I steam them in the microwave for six to seven minutes, and that’s all it takes; with a quick couple of cuts per potato, they’re ready for salad.

(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by email at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)