Seamus Mullen is an award-winning New York chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author known for his inventive yet approachable modern Spanish cuisine. He recently sailed on board Culinary & Wine Delights of Spain, where he involved guests with cooking demonstrations and participated in Windstar’s famous deck barbecue. He shares his experience below.
I had such a great time being the guest chef on Windstar – it’s by far the best cruise experience I’ve had. In many ways, I think it’s misleading to even refer to it as a cruise, because it’s so much more than that. The yacht is small by comparison to the bigger cruise ships, but that to me is the best part – it feels much more elevated and personal. The accommodations are luxurious and well-appointed – nicer than many hotel rooms I’ve stayed in! The staff is incredibly warm and friendly – they really understand service and hospitality, which, in my opinion, brings the luxury experience to another level.
I really enjoyed getting to meet so many of the guests on the cruise, who hailed from all over the country. I loved being able to introduce them to some of my food and my go-to cooking tips. I think my favorite event was the paella demo – it was a beautiful day, we had just set sail with the Majorcan landscape in the background, and cooking a big paella for everyone on the top deck – you couldn’t ask for a better way to spend the afternoon.
Spain is of course near and dear to me, so I was especially excited to be a part of this particular voyage, and to see parts of Spain that I hadn’t been to before, such as Almería, Malaga, and Majorca. I was reminded of why I fell in love with this country in the first place!
Want to try cooking the Spanish paella Seamus made on board? Here’s his recipe:
Paella pan, about 18” in diameter
¼ cup olive oil
2 pounds chicken drumsticks and thighs
6 jumbo shrimp
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup diced chorizo
1 cup sofrito (recipe to follow)
5 cups stock
2 cups Bomba rice
½ pound mussels
½ pound Manila clams
(For the sofrito – yields roughly 6 cups)
2 cups water
2 dried ñora or dried poblano peppers
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 sweet onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 red bell peppers, finely diced
4 vine-ripe tomatoes, grated on a cheese grater
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
For the sofrito, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan, remove from the heat, add the ñora peppers, and soak until soft, about 10 minutes. With a small knife cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds, carefully scrape the flesh away from the skin, and discard the skins. Set aside the flesh.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil to medium-high, add onions and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bell peppers, grated tomatoes, and vinegar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 to 4 hours, stirring periodically. If you’re not going to use the rest of the sofrito right away, divide it into small containers or Ziploc bags and freeze.
(For the paella)
In a large paella pan over an outdoor grill or on a stovetop, heat the olive oil over medium-high
heat. If you’re doing the paella on the stovetop, you can use two burners if your pan is large. Season the chicken parts and shrimp with salt and pepper and sear in the paella pan. Once they’ve turned nicely golden, remove the shrimp and set aside. Add the chorizo to the pan with the chicken and cook to slightly render the oil, about 2 minutes.
Add the sofrito and about two-thirds of the stock and bring to a rolling boil. Add all the rice and gently stir until evenly mixed. It’s important that the stock be boiling when you add the rice so the grains release their starch and create the slightly creamy texture that binds the grains of rice together. Season with salt and move to the cooler side of the grill or reduce the temperature to medium. You want the stock to be gently bubbling over the rice. Throughout the remainder of the preparation, add the remaining hot stock little by little as the rice absorbs the liquid until you’ve used all the stock.
After the rice has simmered for 10 minutes, bury the mussels and clams in the rice. Cook for 4 minutes, add the shrimp and cook for another 4 minutes. At this point the rice should have absorbed all of the stock and the grains should be plump and moist with a slight tooth but no chalky starch. Discard any unopened mussels or clams. Remove the paella from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Interested in more things culinary? Check out Windstar’s upcoming food & wine cruises, the perfect voyages for foodies.