Bobby Flay (!) on What You Should Cook When You Can’t Leave Home

“It’s, like, comfort food DEFCON 4 right now.”

Guess what Bobby Flay was doing when I called him? Cooking. Because he’s Bobby Fucking Flay. And that’s what Bobby Flay does. Through thick and thin, through sickness and health, through good times and bad, Bobby Flay cooks. And we watch. 

I’ll be honest: I was jittery when Bobby picked up the phone, as he finished up preparing spaghetti and meatballs for his family. Because as a kid, while most of my friends had on SpongeBob, I had on “Throwdown! with Bobby Flay.” That’s not a humble brag. It’s just a brag. Cause “Throwdown!” was the greatest show of all time. [Editor’s Note: Yes, “Throwdown!” has an exclamation point in its title.] 

But within five seconds of speaking to Bobby, my anxiety abated—not only about our phone call but, on a more existential level, about whether we’re going to be alright. Because Bobby’s ready for whatever’s coming next. And even if the next few months are going to be difficult, he will do everything he can to make sure they’re also delicious. For his family. And for yours. 

Here’s what we covered: 

*Highlights from Bobby’s pantry

*Why Bobby was cooking Spaghetti and Meatballs last night (and how he makes it)

*Why it’s “comfort food DEFCON 4” right now

*Bobby’s simple hummus recipe, which you can make with canned chickpeas

*How to make two meals out of risotto... by turning it into rice cakes (!)

*Why frozen fruits and vegetables are Actually Good

*Why you should stock up on corn meal

*What non-profit you should support (if you can)

Highlights from Bobby’s pantry

  • Canned Tomatoes (Bobby’s Choice: San Marzano’s)

  • Pasta “Of Four or Five Different Shapes”

  • Arborio Rice (See: Risotto recipe below)

  • Short Grain Rice

  • Canned Chickpeas (See: Hummus recipe below)

  • Corn meal (See: Bobby’s extolment of corn meal below)

  • Oats (“It’s something you can stretch and can cover you for breakfast for a really long time.”)

  • Pacific Foods Chicken Broth (“In Those Boxes That Last a Long Time”)

Why Bobby was cooking spaghetti and meatballs last night (and how he makes it)

Bobby: A couple days ago, I went to the store and bought as many canned tomatoes as I could buy, a bunch of pasta, some ground beef, and some ground pork. Because I just know I can make tons of stuff with that in case things get a little sketchy. 

My tomato sauce is San Marzano tomatoes, onions, garlic, and that’s basically the entire sauce. For the meatballs, I use ricotta cheese, parmigiano, fresh oregano, some eggs of course. But the ricotta, to me, makes them very light and keeps them nice and moist. 

READ: Bobby Flay’s Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

I made like five cans of tomatoes worth of sauce. I probably made 20 or 25 meatballs. We’re not eating all of that tonight. But tomorrow, I’ll make meatball sandwiches or something. In these times, you use your chef skills not to be clever, but to figure out how to utilize everything that you have.

Editor’s Note: If you’re bored, here’s a classic Throwdown! episode, in which Bobby challenges the late Mike Maroni to a meatball duel.

Why it’s comfort food DEFCON 4 right now

Bobby: Spaghetti and Meatballs is a very comforting dish. It reminds me of my childhood. I ate a lot of bad spaghetti and meatballs growing up. But every night that we’re quarantined or trying to lay low at home, every night is like a Sunday night. 

I spoke to [fellow Iron Chef] Michael Symon like a half hour ago. He and I are best friends. I said, “I’m making spaghetti and meatballs.” He said, “Yeah, I made roasted chicken and mashed potatoes last night.” It’s, like, comfort food DEFCON 4 right now. People are pulling from all the things that make them feel comfortable. There’s not gonna be a lot of molecular gastronomy at people’s homes right now.

Bobby’s simple hummus recipe, which you can make with canned chickpeas

Bobby: If you have a can of chickpeas, make some hummus, so you have it in the refrigerator. That way, if you get peckish, you can take out some hummus—and a tortilla chip or a pita chip or a potato chip, doesn’t matter—and satiate yourself for a while. You’re not gonna be hungry. You’re not gonna overeat. 

I use chickpeas and tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and then some water to thin it out, and then some olive oil. And then I usually put a little red chilis in there. 

READ: Bobby Flay’s Spicy Crushed Hummus Recipe

[Editor’s Note: The Food Network recipe is a bit more involved, but you can definitely make hummus even if you only have chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, water, and olive oil. Just throw it all in a food processor and blend it until you hit your desired consistency.]

How to make two meals out of risotto… by turning it into rice cakes (!)

Bobby: If you make risotto, you can use anything you have in your refrigerator. If you have mushrooms or asparagus or carrots, anything like that can go into the rice. And then, after you make the risotto and you serve it for dinner, you take the leftovers, you put them on a tray—like a cooking sheet—and then you put it in the refrigerator. It firms up over night, and then you can cut it out and make little rice cakes the next day for lunch. 

READ: Bobby Flay’s Risotto Primavera Recipe

[Editor’s Note: As Bobby says, you can sub out the vegetables in the recipe for whatever ones you have in your fridge or freezer.]

This is another version of reusing what you used the night before. That’s the key to this whole thing: Pantry utilization and making two meals with everything you cook.

Why frozen fruits and vegetables are Actually Good

Bobby: I’m a frozen fruit and vegetable fan. I think that if they’re handled correctly when they’re frozen, they’re really good. Especially if you have berries or fruits going bad, freeze them and you can make smoothies out of them. Throw them in the blender with some coconut water—or water or yogurt or whatever you have—and you can make a smoothie. 

Why you should stock up on corn meal

Bobby: The things you need to stock up on are things like corn meal. Because people don’t think about it, but you can make cornbread, you can make polenta, you can make tamales, you can crust chicken or fish in it. 

Corn meal is a very inexpensive thing a lot of people aren’t pulling off the shelves right now. I know flour is hard to find right now. But corn meal is my go-to thing. Because I cook Mexican or Southwestern food. I cook Italian food. So I can utilize it in very different ways. 

What non-profit you should support (if you can)

Bobby: City Meals on Wheels in New York. 

[Editor’s Note: City Meals on Wheels says they need to provide 200,000 emergency meals during this outbreak. If you can, please donate to help them do it. Every dollar really does make a difference. Or sign up here to volunteer if you’re in New York City.]

Homecook Hacks:

*Will Magliocco: Tinned fish is a great item. Today, I bought tinned octopus, cockles, and mussels

*Sarah Gouda: “Canned foods in the middle eastern aisle are truly unmatched. I know I’m biased, but canned hummus and ful medames and grape leaves all slap.”

*Many, many people: “Have you made a Quarantini?” 

No, I haven’t. Sorry—food puns aren’t my jam. (Get it? Ugh.) 

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Until next time...