Tips and recipes for a perfect paella party

Annette Joseph, a styling expert and author of Picture Perfect Parties, launches her party-planning column with a gathering at her own home
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Lining up low coffee tables covered in layers of cloth and imported fabrics, and surrounded by mismatched pillows and poufs, created an exotic setting for the Spanish feast.
Lining up low coffee tables covered in layers of cloth and imported fabrics, and surrounded by mismatched pillows and poufs, created an exotic setting for the Spanish feast.

Photograph by Sarah Dorio

I have always been intrigued by cooking over an open fire. There’s nothing like burning wood to infuse every dish with a lovely smoky flavor. So I figured a fireside paella party would be the perfect way to kick off my new gig as entertaining editor of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME. While paella is a labor-intensive dish, prep time accounts for most of the work, making the dish relatively easy for the host to assemble once guests arrive.

I love giving even the most casual event an exotic flair. Low-slung tables on top of layered Moroccan rugs transported guests to another place. I gathered arty props, including golden Moorish lanterns with delicate filigree cutouts, to decorate the table. A collection of colorful Moroccan tea glasses with votives added twinkle, and for a pop of color, I snipped bright flower heads and scattered them down the table’s center. Hot pink peonies were especially dramatic.

Gold dot garland and handmade yarn pom-poms hanging from the ceiling sparked a festive vibe. And I scattered furry poufs and pillows of various shapes, patterns, and hues to add to the cozy atmosphere. The setting was what I like to call “gypsy chic.”

But my favorite touch was the round floating candles and colorful flower heads drifting around the lighted pool. The bright pink blossoms looked spectacular against the glowing turquoise water as the sun set. (No one could resist posting pictures on Instagram and Facebook.) As the fire pit blazed and the sun went down, we sipped pink sangria and watched the flames lick the bubbling paella pan.


The menu

Charcuterie Board
Pink Grapefruit Berry Sangria
Fireside Paella
Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème

Photograph by Sarah Dorio
Photograph by Sarah Dorio

Recipes
Annette’s Fireside Paella

Serves 8
• 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
• Olive oil
• 1 tablespoon paprika
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 red bell pepper
• 1 green bell pepper
• 2 tablespoons saffron
• 1 pound chorizo, cut into 3-inch pieces
• ½ onion, chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 4 cups Bomba rice (a specialty Spanish rice)
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 1 cup crushed tomatoes
• 2 cups haricots verts, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
• 1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut crosswise into ½-inch rings
• 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
• 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
• ½ package frozen lima beans
• 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
• 2 lemons

Place chicken in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle chicken with paprika and ½ teaspoon salt; turn chicken to coat. Cover chicken and let marinate, refrigerated, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Remove stems, seeds, and ribs from peppers and cut into quarters. Cut quarters crosswise into ¼-inch strips; set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind saffron. Put saffron mixture in a medium bowl and add 2 cups of warm water. Whisk until well combined; set aside.

If using a charcoal grill, make a fire in your grill. When the briquettes are completely covered in gray ash, hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grid and count how many seconds you can comfortably leave it there. When you can only hold it there for a second or two, you have high heat and are ready to cook. (Alternatively, you can cook paella on a stove over high heat.)

Place a 20-inch paella pan with 3-inch sides over heat source. Coat bottom of pan with olive oil and heat until pan is very hot, about 5 minutes. Add chicken thighs and cook, turning, until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add chorizo and cook, turning, until browned, about 3 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and set aside.

Add onions and garlic to pan, and saute until onions are caramelized.

Add rice and saffron water to onion-garlic mixture and stir to coat; cook about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, peppers, and haricots verts. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

Add chicken, sausage, calamari, and shrimp, and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes more. Add clams and mussels. Cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes, adding more stock as necessary.

Add lima beans and peas and cook until tender, about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice; serve immediately.

 

Using grapefruit juice kept the sangria from tasting too sweet. Pink carnations on wooden skewers made easy, festive stirrers.
Using grapefruit juice kept the sangria from tasting too sweet. Pink carnations on wooden skewers made easy, festive stirrers.

Photograph by Sarah Dorio

Pink Grapefruit Berry Sangria
Serves 8–10
• 1 (750 milliliter) bottle sparkling rosé wine
• 1 (750 milliliter) bottle white wine
• 8 cups fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 cup sliced strawberries
• 1 cup blueberries
• 1 cup raspberries
• 1 cup kumquats, halved

Combine everything in a large glass beverage dispenser or 20-cup capacity glass jar. Make at least 3 hours in advance; for best results, let sit overnight to allow fruit to macerate. Enjoy with ice and extra berries, if desired.

 

A rich, smooth dessert balances the smoky flavor of paella. Salted chocolate pots de crème were the perfect silky finish.
A rich, smooth dessert balances the smoky flavor of paella. Salted chocolate pots de crème were the perfect silky finish.

Photograph by Sarah Dorio

Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème
Serves 6–8
• 1 ½ cups whole milk
• ½ cup whipping cream
• 5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened)
or semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 teaspoon sea salt, or flake salt
• 6 large egg yolks
•  cup sugar
• 1 cup whipped cream, for topping

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring milk and cream just to simmer in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and salt; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in chocolate mixture. Strain into another bowl. Cool 10 minutes, skimming any foam from surface.

Divide mixture among six ¾-cup custard cups or soufflé dishes. Cover each with foil. Place cups in a large baking pan. Add hot water to pan until it rises halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards are set but centers still move slightly when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove from water and discard foil. Chill until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.) Top with whipped cream and serve.

 

The charcuterie board held Spanish foodstuffs, like olives, almonds, quince paste, and Manchego cheese.
The charcuterie board held Spanish foodstuffs, like olives, almonds, quince paste, and Manchego cheese.

Photograph by Sarah Dorio

Things to include on your Spanish charcuterie Board:
• Manchego cheese
• Quince paste
• Spanish olives
• Marcona almonds
• Jamón Serrano (Spanish ham)
• Salchichon De Vic (Catalonian-style dry salami)
• Whole-wheat crackers
• Crusty slices of French bread

 

Resources
Coffee tables, rugs: West Elm; Lanterns: World Market, Anthropologie; Gold dot garland: Minted; Handmade yarn garland: Anthropologie; Napkins, tea glasses: World Market; Paella pan: Sur La Table

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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