By Alia Al-Chalabi
Being inside has really enabled me to never put on pants, makeup and to neglect properly plating any of my food. I’ve always prided myself on how I prepare dishes that look pretty and taste good, but I let all of that go as I started losing my mind more and more. That’s why I decided to make a three course meal for my boyfriend’s family, who I am in quarantine with.
Everyone involved was obligated to wear their nicest clothes, shoes (optional, of course) and to actually sit down and eat in the dining room. I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say if you have both a kitchen table and a dining room, the dining room is pretty much only used for Thanksgiving, Christmas and maybe Easter.
I would also like to say that I had this idea before Easter, and all your Instagram pictures of your family getting dressed up have nothing on my quarantine dinner.
Here’s the rundown:
Before the meal began, I made roasted chickpeas as an amuse-bouche. I rinsed a can of chickpeas, dried them in a towel and then peeled them, which is an optional step. Then, I heat the oven at 400 degrees and let the peeled chickpeas dry in there for 10 minutes. After I took them out, I sprinkled a heavy amount of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika and a sprig of rosemary on top. I mixed the dried chickpeas around with a wooden spoon until the spices were evenly distributed, putting them back in the oven for 30 more minutes.
Onto the first course, which was cream of tomato soup. I plated it with little dollops of extra cream. Here’s how I made it:
In a Dutch oven, saute one onion and one carrot until they turn soft and mushy. Then, crush two large cans of tomatoes by hand and add into the pot (Note that this soup doesn’t require additional stock or water). I then seasoned it with a sprig of rosemary, a sprig of thyme, red pepper flakes and loads of salt and pepper.
After about 30 minutes, I immersion-blended the mixture and slowly added cream. If you don’t have an immersion blender, just use a regular blender. Then, to plate, pour a little cream in a bowl, and carefully use a spoon to dollop into the soup bowls.
For the second course, I made Bon Appetit’s chicken cordon bleu. This is a classic French recipe that tastes just as amazing as it sounds; its cheesiness is offset by the crunch of the bread crumbs, and it tastes amazing. I highly recommend this dish for added fanciness.
For the dessert course, I prepared a vanilla sponge cake with chocolate ganache frosting. I combined two different Bon Appetit recipes for this because I didn’t have any cocoa powder, which I think is a true testament to making things work when you can’t run out to the grocery store to grab something you don’t have in your pantry.
Social distancing does not mean compromising flavor. Plus, I actually put together this entire menu the night before preparing it just by looking around the fridge and pantry for the ingredients I would have available to work with.
This meal was fun to make, a great way to force myself to put on real clothes (which I haven’t done since I made this dinner) and a nice way to boost everyone’s morale. If you’re looking to get your mind off the quarantine, why not make a fancy meal?