Just north of San Francisco, innovative chef Austin Perkins creates a classic paella that draws on the abundance of the area’s local seafood.

In unskilled hands, paella can become a mundane rice dish with bits of meat and veggies thrown in. That’s far from the case with Austin Perkins, who oversees the restaurant and oyster bar at Nick’s Cove and Cottages in Marshall, California. Perkins’s version remains true to Spanish tradition but draws on local ingredients and takes a few creative liberties to create a memorable meal.

“The chorizo, the smoke from the paprika, the tender shellfish, and the taste of the grill from the chicken pull together many different flavors in one dish,” he says. “It’s an amazing balance of flavors, all bold in their own right, but tied together in equal perfection.”

Aside from the saffron, most of the ingredients come from within 50 miles of Marshall, but the location itself can be considered an ingredient of the paella. “There is little not to love about Nick’s Cove,” Perkins says. “The setting is amazing, as our restaurant is perched over the most pristine bay in California. We’re blessed to live in a culinary epicenter, and fortunate to draw on everything it has to offer on a daily basis.”  



 Nick’s Cove Paella: serves 4–6



½ c. white wine

½ c. sherry wine 1 tbsp. saffron, divided

1 q. water

1 c. minced onion

1 c. minced fennel

¼ c. minced garlic

1 lb. bomba rice

½ tbsp. smoked paprika

½ tbsp. hot paprika

In a small bowl, combine white wine and sherry wine with 1.5 tsps. saffron. In a medium bowl, combine water and remaining saffron. In large pan, sweat onions and fennel, add garlic, cook a minute or two longer. Add rice and toast for about 5 minutes. Deglaze with sherry/white wine/saffron mixture. Cook until mixture begins to boil. Add water-and-saffron mixture, a half-cup at a time over 15 to 20 minutes. When rice is almost done—all liquid is absorbed and the rice is nearly completely soft—stir in paprika. 



1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs

¼ c. sherry wine

½ tbsp. salt

½ tbsp. smoked paprika 

Combine all ingredients and grill over a wood-burning fire. Cool, then slice into strips about a quarter inch wide.



3 tbsp. rice bran oil

2 lbs. Spanish chorizo

30 manila clams

30 mussels

12 large gulf white shrimp

6 piquillo peppers, julienned

cup peas

½ cup fish stock

Minced chives for garnish Coarse sea salt

5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In 10-inch paella pan, heat oil and saute chorizo until slightly crisped. Add chicken and all seafood, peppers, and peas, then cook for 1-2 minutes. Add rice and stir; deglaze with fish stock. Season and finish in 400-degree oven for 4-6 minutes until rice is hot and all shellfish have opened. Sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt, and chives. Serve.