Thanksgiving Recipes: Mike Isabella’s Paella Stuffing

The Graffiato chef shares a saffron-laced side dish to spice up the table.

Mike Isabella’s paella stuffing brings new flavors to the feast. Photograph by Erik Uecke

This vibrant stuffing from chef Mike Isabella may look familiar: The Graffiato chef-owner conceived the dish during a quick-fire challenge on Top Chef All-Stars, where the cheftestants scrambled to create stuffing after cutlery and utensils were removed from the kitchen. Tre Wilcox took the prize, but Isabella’s bright riff on paella with saffron, piquillo peppers, and chorizo is a winner on the toque’s home table. Isabella likes to use it with a turkey for Thanksgiving, but even if you’re not cooking the big bird, it’ll make a zesty filling for wild game, peppers, and even whole roast fish.

Paella stuffing from Mike Isabella, Graffiato

Serves 6 to 8
Saffron Rice
1 tablespoon canola oil
¼ cup small-diced Spanish yellow onion
½ cup short-grain rice, such as Calasparra
1 cup chicken broth
10 threads saffron

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup thinly sliced celery (inside stalks are best)
1 pound uncooked Spanish chorizo, casing removed
4 cups cubed Portuguese rolls or any crusty bread of your choice (¾-inch cubes)
½ cup small-diced piquillo or roasted red peppers (jarred in oil), such as DeLallo brand
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1–1½ cup chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Make the rice: Heat the canola oil in a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sweat for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft and tender. Add the rice and evenly coat in the oil and onions. Toast the rice for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Add the chicken broth and saffron threads and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Let cook for 15 minutes or until nice and fluffy and all of the broth is absorbed.

Meanwhile, start the stuffing: Heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the celery and sweat for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft and tender. Remove from the pan and set aside in a large mixing bowl.

In the same sauté pan, increase the heat to medium-high and add the remaining tablespoon of canola oil. Once nice and hot, add the chorizo and brown for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and add to the cooked celery.

Now add the cubed bread in the same sauté pan and coat in the chorizo fat for 3 to 5 minutes or until nicely toasted. Remove from the heat and add to the celery and chorizo.

In the same mixing bowl, add the roasted red pepper, egg, parsley, kosher salt, 1 cup of chicken broth, and saffron rice. Mix well to incorporate all the ingredients. If the stuffing seems dry, add more chicken broth a little at a time. You will want the toasted bread cubes to absorb the stock and be nice and moist.

Transfer the stuffing to a greased baking dish, tightly cover in plastic wrap, and then cover in foil. This will help the stuffing steam and stay moist. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and plastic and continue to bake for 20 minutes longer, or until the top is golden brown.

Optional: Add the stuffing to your turkey before roasting.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.