I work from home. There are downsides to that. I don’t see humans except for my husband most days. I have gotten way too comfortable living a life without a bra. Netflix is always tempting me from the other room.
When I worked in an office, I rarely took time to do more than bring a frozen dinner to work. One of the many upsides to working remotely now is that my kitchen is just around the corner, begging me to take a break and make something tasty and satisfying for breakfast and lunch. Still, I often get stuck in a rut, making the same dishes over and over or giving up altogether and ordering food from a local restaurant.
But not this week. Last week, my editor challenged me to cook like one of America’s most well-known chefs, Bobby Flay, and I decided to accept.
I chose six recipes to feed me for five days, some of them breakfasts, a few for lunch and a few sides to round them out.
Here’s what it was like to cook like Bobby Flay for a week.
Recipe: Apple Dutch baby
I’ve made apple Dutch babies before (shoutout to Blue Apron, where I first learned how to make them), and with this one, the fresh nutmeg made a huge difference. I’d never grated fresh nutmeg before. As with any recipe, I had to make some changes. For this one, I cooked in a different metal skillet because I didn’t have a cast-iron one, and that meant it took significantly less time in the oven than the recipe called for. I ended up making this for breakfast again a couple of days later. It’s pretty simple for when you’ve got a sweet tooth in the morning. But other than the fresh nutmeg, I’m not sure what Bobby does here that isn’t your standard Dutch pancake fare.
The next two recipes called for a grill, which I didn’t have, and so used a combination of stovetop and oven instead.
I wasn’t super-impressed with this dish. First, Flay recommended cooking it skin-side down, which didn’t seem to get the job done on the stovetop (can’t speak for the grill) and I ended up having to flip it sauce-side down to finish cooking it. The fresh ginger was nice, but I’m not sure it was worth the energy to melt butter, honey and brown sugar together, and it seemed a little more salty than necessary.
Recipe 2: Grilled sweet potato wedges
These sweet potatoes ended up being a lot more difficult than I anticipated, mostly because of the spices, which was my own darn fault. I didn’t have Bobby’s Flay’s poultry seasoning and didn't know where to find it, but I did find a copycat recipe, and I have a cabinet full of spices, so I decided to make it myself. That was… more labor-intensive than I imagined. I probably used more than $20-worth of spices, and I now have enough poultry seasoning to last me until the end of time.
That said, these sweet potatoes were good, a really nice mixture of sweet and spicy (thank you, cayenne pepper) and surprising (ground fennel!) and it worked perfectly well to cook them in the oven, though I imagine they would have a little extra je ne sais quoi on the grill.
If you already have Bobby Flay’s seasoning, this is a simple and tasty way to cook a sweet potato. If not, I might find a different recipe.
Bobby Flay both disappointed and pleased me with this one. If you’re someone who pays a lot of attention to detail, you’ll notice my salad seems to have a whole lot more lettuce than Bobby Flay’s. I don’t know why that is. In fact, I actually have half the amount of endive as the recipe called for, and it still looks like a salad with apples rather than an apple salad. You might also notice mine is not garnished with pomegranate arils. That’s because the recipe didn’t actually call for it in the ingredients list, so it didn’t make it onto my shopping list. Basically, the photos you see on the internet are a lie.
Also, you might argue whether a salad is even cooking. To that, I would say, "I toasted my own goddamn walnuts, so it was definitely cooking."
But I digress. This salad is pretty bomb, and I guess worth going to three different stores trying to find pomegranate molasses for the dressing (Whole Foods ended up having one option, for which I was grateful.) I never, ever make salads at home because I never feel like they turn out well, and I end up being sad about eating a pile of lettuce covered in ranch. But I ate this as a lunch/impatient snack before dinner for three days running — yeah, it stayed tasty for that long. I also learned how to emulsify my own dressing, which I'd never done before. It made me wonder if it might be worth trying a salad recipe or two in the near future.
If I were to pass on some advice for this one, I’d say follow your own portioning for the lettuce to apple ratio and also for the amount of blue cheese. The recipe calls for so much blue cheese, it’s like Flay wants your whole mouth to taste like a foot.
Spaghetti squash: Is it a meal? A side dish? A strange snack? I’m not sure. This was probably the simplest and least convoluted recipe so far, and it was still very, very yummy. The only thing that seemed a little off was the roasting time for the squash — mine took a full 10 minutes less than the recipe’s anticipated 45 minutes.
Beyond that, it was just a matter of sautéing some shallots (shallots cooking in butter is one of my top 10 favorite smells in the universe) and chopping cilantro, parsley, dill and chives, none of which I had ever thought to do with spaghetti squash before.
I appreciate that the recipe doesn’t try to pretend to be pasta and just works with the squash as it is. I’d definitely consider adding this to my rotation of side dishes (and let’s be honest — the only dishes currently on that rotation are potatoes and rice). It’s fresh, flavorful and a little surprising. It was also just as good warmed up as a snack the next day.
This bowl was the bomb. If you try one recipe out of this list, let it be this one. Every element added something interesting (salty, lemony celery kale, spicy tofu, mild sweet potatoes.) The real standout is the lemony tahini-miso dressing, which brings everything together and makes every bite delicious.
That said, it took forever to make. After all was said and done, it took me about two hours, which was not ideal considering I came home hungry from a yoga class. On top of the fact that you’re prepping four different elements, Flay asks you to spend 30 minutes draining the tofu (placing a weighted plate on top of it) and then 30 minutes (or overnight!) marinating it. And then 40 minutes in the oven.
So yes, try it, and don’t skimp on the lemony tahini-miso dressing. But prep in advance and/or don’t go into it hungry.
I'm going to look back most fondly on that quinoa bowl. I'd definitely consider making the apple salad and spaghetti squash again. The other dishes were kind of a shrug for me, so I don't think I'll be worshipping at the kitchen of Bobby Flay anytime soon. His recipes were good, but so are a lot of other recipes I haven't ever taken the time to excavate from my Pinterests boards, I'm sure.
I'm determined to find another use for the lemony tahini-miso dressing, and I'd like to find a way to use up the bottle of pomegranate molasses I am now the reluctant owner of. But mostly, what I learned is that it's good to change up your routine every once in a while and challenge yourself to try different flavor combinations and ingredients that aren't in your pantry...
... and that it's not worth trying to recreate a famous chef's poultry seasoning.
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