Behind-the-Scenes Dish with Top Chef's Ted Allen

iVillage: What are some staples you can keep in your pantry to serve guests when they stop by?

Ted Allen: One thing that's kind of nice that everybody likes, including children, is shrimp cocktail. It's super-easy to buy a bag of frozen, deveined, peeled shrimp with the tails still on, and keep those in the freezer, and obviously cocktail sauce is easy to store. Someone can walk in your door and you can take that bag, put it in the colander, run it under cold water for five minutes, and then they're ready to go. And then you have a snack that a lot of people consider luxurious, and it's attractive and semi-special occasion. But it's super, super simple.

I like to have prosciutto around because it keeps forever and you can very quickly wrap that around any kind of fruit you have sitting around, whether it's peaches or the old cliche, melon, grapes, figs... fresh mozzarella. If it's warm out... you can take a skewer and freeze little pieces of pineapple or grapes. They need to be really ripe and sweet because when things are cold you can't taste them as well. That could be a really elegant thing to go with cocktail hour.

It's always nice to have a mix of different kinds of olives marinated in some rosemary, olive oil, some cayenne. That keeps for a hundred years. There are lots of cheeses that will hold for a long time, and I love cheese, so I always have some sitting around....There's always wasabi peas, nuts, frozen edamame. That's another thing that you can prepare instantaneously. You just have to blanch it for about four minutes, put kosher salt on it, and you're good to go.

MAIN: Ted Allen dishes on Top Chef and entertaining

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