Paella Dinner Extravaganza

paella-2Synergy auction season is here again! If you’re struggling to come up with donation ideas, consider hosting a dinner or other event—and get the whole family involved.

We recently fulfilled our donation from last Spring’s auction: a paella dinner for 12.  My husband, Douglas, did the majority of the planning and cooking. His dad was born in Valencia, Spain and although he never spoke Spanish as a child, he has honed his paella making skills in the last few years, and the dinner has become an auction tradition. I pitch in too and so do our boys, Sasha and Nikolai.

This year Douglas opted to make one big paella, with mussels, chicken, sausage, scallops and veggies. He bought a big pan and began seasoning it the week before. He wanted to make an array of tapas as well, so we spent a few days criss-crossing the city to get all the particularly Spanish ingredients; ground lamb meat, rabbit, the correct paella rice, olives, chorizo, manchego cheese and quince… not to mention the bubbly wine and sherry.

The boys helped assemble the tapas. The tapas on skewers are called banderillas; they get their name from the barbed darts used during a bullfight! Ole! I did a lot of the shopping and made a watermelon, tomato, cucumber, and avocado salad, as well as this apple tart made from our garden’s ailing apple tree.

Luckily, the guests were mostly friends and pretty laid back, but the paella maestro was certainly stressed. When I had to accompany my dad to the ER hours before showtime, our 11 year-old stepped in as the sous-chef. The 15 year-old wasn’t as helpful.

That night, I mustered all my long dormant waitress skills, I have actually waitressed in NY, London and Paris! The tapas were served with a Spanish Cava–champagne-like bubbly– and the paella was cooked on the barbecue. The great thing about paella is that it is a one pan dish and you can put different mixtures of things in it. We used chickpeas, green and yellow beans (from the local farmers’ market) and bell peppers to complement the mussels, chicken and other protein. Other times of the year asparagus looks great!

It’s not an easy menu, but it is not only tasty but interesting and fun to create. The shopping and planning were the hardest part, with multiple trips to the library, post-it note tabs in cookbooks and a scribbled list of plans and shopping lists strewn across the house.

The meal ended with home made flan, apple tart, and strong coffee. I think it was a success and something we are happy to do to support Synergy. I posted pictures on Facebook and a friend asked if she could hire my husband to cater her own dinner party. My kids and I laughed that he could call his business HeLLa PaeLLa; he was not amused.

— By Darya Mead

 Photos by Darya Mead
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