Bobby Flay - © Food Network

Bobby Flay: Meeting Cooking’s Biggest Challenges Head-On

Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay was one of the Food Network’s top fan favourites for decades. He’s opened and closed a number of high-profile restaurants. He’s won and lost a Michelin Star. And he’s had a string of controversial marriages…

Bobby Flay - © guiltyeats comAnd as serious as he can be in the kitchen, he’s never lost his sense of humour.

Understands the resto business

Flay says he understands the restaurant business – with all its ups and downs, successes and failures. And he insists he’s philosophical about the closing, in 2013, of his flagship eatery, Mesa Grill, in New York.

He says the Grill closed because his landlord, upped his rent to an unsustainable level. He doesn’t mention the fact that the resto lost its Michelin Star in 2009, just a year after it was awarded. One imagines that downgrade eroded the resto’s élan at least a little.

One thing is constant

That’s Flay’s on-screen charisma. He’s been a fan fave since his first appearance on The Food Network, in Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay, in 1998. He’s since hosted no fewer than 15 other cooling show, as well as guesting and judging on a string of others on both the Food Network and The Cooking Channel.

And he’s always happy to give interviews on food issues.

Tackling cooking’s toughest challenges

Flay recently sat down for a chat with Anderson Cooper on the latter’s prime time CNN feature, “The Whole Story” this past weekend. And he revealed his secrets for meeting some of the biggest issues a cook can come up against…

Too spicy?

“[Try] just a little bit of honey. Don’t make it too sweet. It might just chill out the spiciness enough to balance it out.”

Need to rescue overcooked meat?

“Throw it in a taco. Everything tastes better in a tortilla. Let’s face it…”

Gas or electric?

“I really like a gas stove. Though electric ovens work really nicely, especially for baking.”

The most under-rated kitchen tool?

“The zester. We always buy lemons and limes and oranges and grapefruits. […] But we never utilize the most flavour on the fruit. The zest.”

What if your dish is too salty?

“[Long, loud sigh] Drink a lot of Tequila. It’ll be perfect…”

My take

The foregoing, off-the-cuff nuggets of Flay wisdom are right in character with the guy we’ve come to know and love on the screen.

As for his final thought, on over-salted food… Other sources, such as Food, offer more-sensible, time-tested suggestions:

  • Make More of Your Recipe. Let’s start with the most obvious: make more. If you have enough ingredients, double the recipe or make more by half, then mix it in with the salty batch a bit at a time until you’ve reached your desired flavour.
  • Bulk Up Your Dish. Bulk up the dish with more of any quick-cooking main ingredients you have, such as vegetables from your crisper drawer. I’ll often add handfuls of greens to dishes with too much salt.
  • Add a Starch. Stir in some cooked (unsalted) rice, barley, quinoa, pasta or couscous. These salt-thirsty ingredients will absorb quite a bit from a sauce. You can also add a flour slurry, which will also thicken the dish.
  • Dilute Your Dish With Liquid. With this option, you just want to be careful not to dilute too much, or you’ll kill the flavour.
  • Add Fat. Cream, sour cream, milk, and cheese will all do the trick. Whatever tour dish or sauce was originally, you now have a velvety cream soup or sauce.
  • Add other flavourings. Additional complementary herbs and spices can balance out the saltiness. For example, make your plain dish a curry! But connsider this tip as your last resort for fixing an over-salted didh.

…And enjoy your tequila in a margarits, as usual.

~ Maggie J.