It’s a Paella Party

Rick and Maryjane Carsten with her brother Paul posing halfway through the cooking process.

finished product

Lucy Lange

Seventy-five friends and family showed up at Maryjane and Rick Carsten’s home on April 30 in SaddleBrooke Ranch to celebrate Maryjane’s 70th birthday. Maryjane was the star of the day but we all agreed her brother and paella maker, Paul Dimech, stole the show with a very artistic and super delicious paella. Paul owns San Diego Rice and makes paella for up to 250 people in the San Diego area. The business is a product of Paul’s Maltese heritage and 35 years of service around the globe within the U.S. Intelligence Service. The eight point Maltese Cross was a poignant memory of Maryjane’s ancestry.

In the four-foot wide paella pan, Paul started out with Valencia rice (traditional) simmered in a homemade broth cooked for 12 hours from chicken and fish, paella spices, Saffron, onion, garlic, celery, mandarin oranges, and organic tomatoes. Then in various stages he added the fats, including duck, chicken, and pork, followed by meats including chicken, halal beef, calamari, bacon, lamb, a pork and beef sausage, squid, mussels, shrimp, clams, and crawfish. Then everything is covered in onion, pistachio nuts, and cashews. The paella is then topped with the Maltese cross design made with a background of red cabbage. The design was made using coconut cream lychee fruit, bamboo shoots, quail eggs, peas, corn, black beans, garbanzo beans, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, and artichoke hearts. The outer edge was decorated with cut lemons and limes and cherry tomatoes.

The last 10 minutes of cooking Paul fired up the flame to make the traditional crusty rice bottom. I’m sure I have forgotten one or two ingredients, but the slow cooking melded all the ingredients into the best paella that I and the rest of the guests have ever tasted. I think I dreamt about it all night. There were leftovers, which Maryjane froze and will take with them as she and Rick take their summer trip in their RV.

If you want more information about his paella, go to to look at all his paella creations.