Virtual Dinner Party No. 8 – French Onion Soup, Vinegar Chicken, Rhubarb Clafoutis!

Robin Boyle Dessert, Dinner, Dinner Party, French, General Interest, Soup

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(Update: For VDP No. 9, click here)

Coronavirus Lockdown

With most of us in self-isolation or even total lockdown, a VDP (virtual dinner party) is one way to catch up with friends and to continue to test your cooking skills.

We have now had a number of VDPs. Here is the link to the first of those: Virtual Dinner Party No. 1

From there you can link through to subsequent ones.

Last Saturday night was VDP No. 8 when we were joined by our friends from Adelaide and our friends from Melbourne.

It will be the last VDP for the time being as Australia starts to release its lock down restrictions. We are now all free to visit friends (in limited numbers) or invite friends over. But we hope to have a reunion VDP in the next month or two.

Following are our menu and running sheet for last Saturday’s meal.

I had the pleasure of putting the menu together, and chose a French theme. It included two old standards – French Onion Soup, and Clafoutis – and a lesser known provincial chicken dish from Alsace. Our Adelaide friends appeared on Zoom wearing berets with a background of a photo they had taken in a cute Alsatian village last year.

(If you think you might give a VDP a try, at the end we give four useful web links that are worth reviewing.)

The Menu for Virtual Dinner Party No. 8

Our aim is for a menu that is easy to prepare and finish off and for dishes that are not too heavy or rich.

(Some of the links below might not open if there is a paywall.)

French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’oignon) – based on Patricia Wells “Bistro Cooking” – Recipe

Main Course
Chicken in Vinegar – based on Saveur – Original Recipe or Blog Comments or Blog Recipe

Steamed Broad Beans, Broccolini Tips and Turnips – Olive’s Kitchen – Recipe

Rhubarb Clafoutis – Vogue Cookbook and Olive’s Kitchen – Recipe


An Alsatian style white (Riesling, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer) followed by a Pinot Noir in the French style, then a sticky white for dessert.

Running Sheet

While it might seem somewhat prescriptive, the aim is to keep things moving and coordinated and for everyone to serve the same dish at the same time.  The times given below are Adelaide time (half an hour behind Melbourne time). Much of the preparation is done beforehand.

Adelaide time 10.30 am (11.00 am Melbourne)

10.30 – Make your stock or get some from the freezer to thaw out

Adelaide time 4.00 pm (4.30 pm Melbourne)

4.00 – Caramelise the onions for the soup
4.30 – Make the chicken dish in total and set aside for later
6.00 – Prepare vegetables ready for steaming
6.15 – Prepare potatoes if using
6.30 – Make the batter for the clafoutis and set aside
6.40 – Prepare final elements for the clafoutis as required
6.45 – Prepare final elements for the soup

7.00 Adelaide time (7.30 pm Melbourne) – Log in via Zoom
7.01 – Raise our glasses. Cheers to us all!
7.10 – Reheat stock and the onions
7.25 – Baguette and cheese under the grill
7.30 – Serve soup
7.40 – Gently reheat the chicken
7.45 – Prepare to steam the vegetables (and finish the potatoes)
8.05 – Assemble the steamed vegetables (and potatoes)
8.10 – Serve main course
8.15 – Oven on for the clafoutis
8.30 – Finish off and assemble the clafoutis
8.35 – Bake clafoutis
9.00 – Serve dessert

How it all panned out

With three couples on the link there was plenty to talk about – again we ran overtime, serving the dessert more than an hour behind the stated time. But who cares! It was fun and the dishes were great. The running sheet is essential as it helps for the sequencing of key tasks and giving the timing of each dish.

The highlight dish of the night was the rhubarb clafoutis: we had tasted a version of it at the Agrarian Kitchen a couple of years ago and loved it, and had experimented to try and recreate the result. We think we went very close on Saturday night – worth a try. Our version of the soup was lovely, however, but it is easy to see how the recipe can fall apart if the stock is inferior or if a lesser cheese is used. The vinegar chicken is a dish we had cooked a number of times; worth trying as it gives a very French-style result. And the steamed vegies were excellent as well – use it as an idea about how to serve an accompaniment that is wholesome but looks great. Don’t forget turnips and broad beans – they are terrific vegetables.

Following are some photos taken on the night – the caramelising onions and the chicken, the vegetables and the rhubarb clafoutis. Forgive the poor quality of composition and plating as it does become rather hectic trying to keep up with everyone and still take photographs. We don’t always bother to plate the dishes in a fancy way as there is no one else but us to see the results, and it does save on washing up! And because it gets a little hectic, we don’t remember to photograph every dish, or don’t have time.

Some Useful Links

Dinner parties go digital during coronavirus outbreak: ‘We lock in every Saturday night’

How To Throw A Virtual Dinner Party

How to have a virtual dinner with friends or loved ones

Here’s How to Have Your Own Virtual Dinner Party During Coronavirus Quarantine

Contributions welcomed!

If you have had your own VDP (virtual dinner party) or virtual foodie or wine experiences, we are happy to hear about them, including the menu, wines, etc (and good quality photos if you have any) and why it turned out so well.