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Paella pickup: couple sells the Spanish dish in their garage

Since catering is not an option during the pandemic, Paella House in Snohomish offers the Spanish rice dish to go.

Greg and Laura McLaughlin created the Snohomish franchise a year ago – just weeks after Everett’s first U.S. case of COVID-19 was confirmed.

When the McLaughlins couldn’t find a commercial kitchen in Snohomish County to hire them because of the coronavirus, they decided to build theirs in their garage.

Next, farmers’ markets, festivals, weddings and corporate events – the pan and mantequilla (“bread and butter” in Spanish) for Paella House – were banned to slow the spread of the virus. So they decided to offer take out food from their Snohomish house on Saturday.

“The wild card in all of this was COVID,” said Greg McLaughlin. “We thought, ‘Wow, we’re launching this business at the worst possible time.’ At that point, we really didn’t know what impact COVID was really going to have. ”

Paella is a popular Spanish dish made with rice, saffron, paprika, chicken, and seafood, cooked and served in a large, shallow pan.

Laura and Greg McLaughlin are working on take out orders in the kitchen they built in their garage. (Olivia Vanni / The Messenger)

Hailing from Valencia, a paella recipe first appeared in an 18th-century manuscript in Spain. The dish takes its name from the traditional pan in which it is prepared. Paella means “frying pan” in Valencian.

The McLaughlins met Alejandro de Basilio from Paella House at the Port Townsend Farmer’s Market. He founded the restaurant business in 2014.

“We stumbled upon it by accident,” said Greg McLaughlin. “He mentioned that he was looking to expand the areas where he can serve authentic Spanish cuisine, and we were looking to do something entrepreneurial for ourselves.

“Paella House ticked all the boxes for us where our passions are: we love to cook, we love to serve people, and we love to be involved in entertaining people, whether at weddings or festivals.”

The McLaughlins trained with de Basilio in Port Townsend on how to cook a number of paella dishes. The founder of Paella House is Spanish.

“We were going to Port Townsend for the weekend, and we really learned the ins and outs of it all,” said Laura McLaughlin. “But we got into it with (Penn Cove) Musselfest last March. It changes so much with every step of the cooking, so it was really interesting, really good to learn from someone who grew up preparing this food and perfected it over the years.

Crab and mussels cook in a large paella pan.  Paella means ??  frying pan ??  in the Valencian language in Spain.  (Olivia Vanni / The Messenger)

Crab and mussels cook in a large paella pan. Paella means “frying pan” in the Valencian language in Spain. (Olivia Vanni / The Messenger)

When coronavirus isn’t a problem, you can find Paella House in Port Townsend and hopefully Snohomish Farmers Markets.

The franchise also offers authentic Spanish cuisine at festivals, such as Strange Brewfest in Port Townsend, University District Streetfair, Shirmpfest in Brinnon, Ballard Seafood Fest, Lavender Festival in Sequim, Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, and Crabfest in Port Angeles.

Or you can hire Paella House as a catering company for private parties – they specialize in weddings and corporate events.

Paella House imports its bomba rice, sausage, saffron, extra virgin olive oil, paprika and, on request, some seafood from Spain. All other ingredients are locally sourced.

The catering menu offers 10 different Spanish paellas, as well as platters of Iberian cold cuts and ham.

Why paella? “It’s an incredible dish,” said Greg McLaughlin. “It’s visually stunning, it smells good, you can hear the ingredients sizzling on the pan. It touches all the senses. When you taste it, you are amazed. It’s a simple dish with complex layers of flavor.

The two most requested are Paella del Campo and Paella del Mar. Paella del Campo includes chicken, chorizo, butifarra sausage, caramelized onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes, while Paella del Mar contains mussels, clams, shrimp, caramelized squid. onions, red and green peppers and tomatoes.

But the specialty of the Paella House is Paella Valenciana – the original recipe found in the 18th century manuscript – made with chicken, giant white beans, green beans, caramelized onions, tomatoes and rosemary.

The McLaughlins start by making a paella with onions and tomatoes.  (Olivia Vanni / The Messenger)

The McLaughlins start by making a paella with onions and tomatoes. (Olivia Vanni / The Messenger)

“La Valenciana is actually my favorite,” said Laura McLaughlin. “I love all its flavors and its simplicity, but it’s a bit like choosing your favorite girl. You put so much care into each recipe, it’s like creating this beautiful thing.

The McLaughlins hired a contractor to convert their garage into a 325 square foot commercial kitchen. It has refrigerators, sinks, freezers, storage racks, prep tables and gas burners.

“We call it small but mighty,” said Greg McLaughlin. “It does the job.”

The Snohomish Health District has approved the McLaughlin’s request to offer take-out paella from the kitchen. Each Saturday they will cook four to six different paellas for take out orders. They’ve had clients from as far away as West Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, and Sammamish.

“We have met tons of great people who are keen to support struggling small businesses during this time,” said Greg McLaughlin. “It obviously doesn’t replace all the events we would have organized, but it has helped us stay afloat and pay some of the bills.”

Customers line up at McLaughlin in Snohomish to collect their take out orders.  (Olivia Vanni / The Messenger)

Customers line up at McLaughlin in Snohomish to collect their take out orders. (Olivia Vanni / The Messenger)

Although the McLaughlins own Paella House, they still have daytime jobs: Greg, 50, works for a food broker and Laura, 49, is a dental assistant. They joke that it takes 30 seconds to get to their second job in the garage. They hope they can make Paella House their career.

“We’re trying to stay positive and look for the silver liners that COVID has treated everyone with,” said Greg McLaughlin. “We had more time to train together, work on all aspects of the business and hone our craft. We are optimistic about the future.

You don’t have plans for Valentine’s Day? Get a taste of Spain by ordering a take-out paella for you and your sweetheart on February 13.

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; [email protected]; @sarabruestle.

If you are going to

Paella House, 15115 72nd Drive SE, Snohomish, offers take out on Saturdays only. Pre-order your paella before noon on Saturday for picking between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Call 425-530-1312 or visit paella.house for take-out orders. Send an email to [email protected] to book a catering service for your next event.

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