Suppose you’ve suddenly learned that you have guests coming over for dinner in 15 minutes. What would you make? If you’re celebrity chef Bobby Flay, there’s no need to panic or turn to take-out menus. What he loves to do more than anything else in the world is cook.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Bobby Flay: I’m always ready. I stock my pantry very, very well, because you just never know when somebody’s going to pop in. And when you come to my house, I’m feeding you no matter what.
I would make a pasta dish for sure. Let’s say that you have absolutely nothing except a couple of ingredients in your pantry. If you cook some pasta, you save the pasta water. You add the pasta water with a little bit of butter, some Parmesan cheese, a little fresh garlic and some black pepper. Cacio e pepe. Perfect.
Flay: My go-to dish with basic pantry ingredients is probably risotto. You take some onions and garlic, you sweat it (cook them in a little oil or butter to soften them, without taking on any color). You add the rice, you add some broth. And if you don’t have broth, you can just use water and then you can flavor it with whatever else you have in the pantry. It could be canned tomatoes. You can make like a delicious tomato risotto or saffron risotto, or it could be (made) with dried mushrooms.
Flay: One of the most difficult things as a parent is being able to cook for kids and adults at the same time. I’m pretty strict about this. I don’t like to make more than one meal for my family. So, if there are kids around, they’re eating what the adults are eating. I think that’s a good thing to do so that kids get used to the idea that there’s one meal in the house. They’re not going to like everything, and that’s OK. It’s trial and error. Kids’ palates change constantly.
Flay: I’ve been using a lot of avocados lately. They’re creamy. They have a really nice sort of soothing texture. I make all kinds of different, you know, avocado relishes and guacamole. I use avocado to spread on toast. I use it for sandwiches. I use it for salads. You can find avocado in my cooking all the time. I just made a dish this morning where I used avocado and corn, made a relish out of it, put it on a crispy flour tortilla, and then put a sea scallop on top.
Flay: You need a couple different kinds of oils — extra-virgin olive oil to … finish dishes. You need an oil to cook with. I like to use avocado oil. It’s a nice light oil, and it has a high smoking point. Definitely have a bunch of different vinegars — red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar. I like to have different kinds of mustards in my pantry as well. Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, maybe a honey mustard to make a sandwich.
Of course, I like to have chiles, whether they’re red chiles from Mexico or Calabrian chiles from Italy. I’m using split peppers these days that are like a French chile pepper because I’m opening a French brasserie soon in Las Vegas. I’ve been experimenting with those a lot.
Flay: Greek yogurt. If you have some berries or other fruits that are kind of on their way out, heat them in a pan with a little pinch of sugar. Let them cook down, let them cool off. And then you have this beautiful, cooked fresh fruit jam. I like to stir that into some fresh Greek yogurt.
Flay: I love nachos. I want that like rich and thick nacho cheese sauce, crispy tortillas, lots of avocados, beautiful grilled chicken, some black beans and lots of fresh cilantro. You get that crispiness from the tortillas. I love a nacho with a margarita on the side.
Flay: Probably because I give them the stage to do it. And I’ve been competing for a really long time. When people come up to me on the street, they always say to me, like, “You know, I can beat you.” And the first thing I say to them is, “OK. What’s the dish?” And they never have the answer. So, if you’re going to challenge me, just be ready.