Rich stock, a wide pan and a grill are key to creating an authentic version of the iconic Spanish dish.
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“A lot of Americans have never experienced traditional paella,” says Seamus Mullen, chef-owner of New York City’s Tertulia and an expert in Spanish cooking. “Here in the States, you often get something that’s more like jambalaya—a mountain of rice loaded with seafood.” True paella, he says, starts with a thin layer of rice slowly infused with the flavor of an intense stock. “The rice shouldn’t be much deeper than the first knuckle on your thumb; that’s why you need a proper paella pan, one that’s wide and shallow.” For even more authenticity, Mullen cooks his paella on a grill over a live fire. “With a grill you can heat the pan evenly all over,” he says. “A stove will give you a hot spot.” At Tertulia, Mullen’s custom-made grill has a grate that he can raise with a crank to lower the cooking temperature. At home, he suggests inserting a buffer of cast-iron trivets, or even several empty tuna cans with the tops, bottoms and labels removed. Here, he demonstrates how to make chicken-and-seafood paella on the grill, including how to enrich chicken stock with lobster, chiles and saffron, and when to add each ingredient so that each one cooks perfectly.