If you’ve always been too intimated to make paella, you’re not alone.
Haylie Duff says she used to think that the Spanish staple was “reserved only for those that really know what they are doing…or really know paella” — but after developing her own recipe for the dish on a whim with a friend, she quickly changed her mind.
While kicking back at her Malibu home with The Walking Dead star Alanna Masterson, the Real Girl’s Kitchen host decided to “spontaneously” give paella a go. “Paella is one of those dishes that takes a while to make and it’s all about layering,” Duff tells PEOPLE for our exclusive video series, My Food Story. “It goes slow, you put something in and you let it cook for a little bit and then you add something else.”
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Instead of being scared off by the long process, Duff assures that “if you do all of your prep ahead of time and have all of your ingredients ready to go in the pan, you can sit back and relax and enjoy the process of making this, which is I think why I have such great memories of that night.”
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She emphasizes how important saffron is to her recipe. “It is the flavor of paella, without it its just rice and chicken and shrimp,” says Duff. She likes to make the saffron broth first, steeping the threads into boiling water for maximum flavor. And because her Southern background is deeply rooted in all things spicy, Duff gave the dish her own spin by adding spicy sausage. The result? Smoky, peppery, goodness.
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Duff’s dish was such a hit that Masterson has made it on her own for her family, and Duff’s sister Hilary is also a big fan. “I think that’s a pretty good sign of great flavor and a great recipe,” she says.
Watch how it’s done in the video above, then follow her recipe below to taste it for yourself.
Haylie Duff’s Skillet Paella
20 saffron threads
3 small roma tomatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large red bell pepper
1 chicken breast, diced and seasoned with salt and pepper
6-8 large shrimp
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
3 tbsp. lemon juice and a touch of zest
½ tsp. each chili powder, cumin, celery salt
¼ tsp. cayenne
2½-3 cups low sodium chicken stock
½ cup peas
¾ cup chopped artichoke hearts
1 spicy sausage link
6-8 mussels, cleaned
Handful of fresh herbs (like flat leaf Italian parsley and cilantro)
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Steep ¼ cup boiling water with saffron threads for 5-20 minutes; set aside.
2. Place tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes until sunken and slightly charred. For the bell pepper, roast over the burner on stove top.
3. Bring large skillet to medium heat, warm remaining olive oil. Add chicken and shrimp and cook till halfway done. Remove from heat onto a separate plate.
4. Add onion to skillet and cook till translucent. Add roasted tomatoes, bell pepper and garlic; sauté 1-2 minutes. Add rice and evenly combine all ingredients. Let simmer for a minute. Add lemon juice, spices and reserved saffron broth. Add chicken stock, peas and artichoke hearts and let rice absorb liquid. Do not stir the rice.
5. Once rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add chicken and shrimp back to the pan with sausage and mussels. Cover with a lid and cook until meat is cooked all the way through and mussels have opened. Garnish with fresh herbs.