Foodie: Quarantine cooking at home

Foodie: Quarantine cooking at home
Spinach and chicken enchiladas. (Courtesy Photo)

By Chad Sparrow

As a restaurant owner during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, I can say one thing to summarize: This sucks.

Restaurants are arguably the most affected businesses. In my opinion, up to 25 percent of restaurants in the city might never open their doors again. With an average net profit of 6 percent, restaurants have little margin for error.

COVID-19 has tested the resilience of restaurants and their staff, and it will continue to test what we do in the coming months. However, I know we will evolve and adapt to the current and eventual situation.

One good thing we always see in times of crisis is the kindness of many people. From food drives, donations, business support, volunteering and many other random acts of kindness, it helps me see the light in these otherwise dark times.

I am optimistic that when this passes – and it will – Alexandria restaurants will be back to business stronger than ever. We will hold a new outlook of respect and appreciation for our day-today work and social lives, because it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.

I was originally going to share a recipe that featured foods that help strengthen the immune system, or maybe a drink recipe for a “quarantini.” However, I felt it made more sense to share the recipe for a dish that makes me happy.

This spinach and chicken enchiladas dish is an amazing comfort food that feeds the whole family. I won a partial scholarship to Johnson and Wales University, where I went to culinary school, when I submitted this recipe to a contest. This dish is also available at Urbano 116, but not until we open again, so you’ll have to try it at home in the meantime.

I hope this dish brings some happiness during an uncertain time. Cheers to cooking while quarantining!

The writer is managing partner of Common Plate Hospitality, the restaurant group that owns Mason Social, Urbano 116 and Augie’s Mussel House and Beer Garden.

Recipe: Spinach and chicken enchiladas

Ingredients: Enchiladas

3 cups water
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 cups spinach sauce (recipe below)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cups shredded jack cheese
10 8” flour tortillas
Salt to taste

Ingredients: Spinach sauce

5 cloves garlic
2 bunches green onions
1 bunch cilantro
1 jalapeno
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
10 oz. of sautéed spinach or frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 tbsp. cumin powder
½ cup chicken stock
Salt to taste


  • Add all spinach sauce ingredients to blender and blend until smooth sauce
    is formed.
  • In a saucepan, bring three cups of water to a boil. Add chicken thighs,
    reduce heat to medium and let cook for 30 min. Drain water and let
    chicken cool. Shred chicken and set aside in a bowl.
  • In sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp. oil. Add onions and salt, then sauté until
    translucent, about 4 min.
  • Add onions, 1 cup of spinach sauce, ¾ cup of shredded cheese and salt
    to the chicken. Mix all ingredients together.
  • In sauté pan, heat a small amount of oil and lightly sauté each flour tortilla
    for about 45 seconds, adding oil as needed, until slightly crispy.
  • Fill each tortilla evenly with chicken mixture and roll tight. Place rolled
    enchiladas in baking dish. Top with remaining spinach sauce, then top
    with remaining cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.
  • Serve hot and garnish with chopped green onions, cilantro and sour
    cream if desired.