We all remember my adventure in paella-making a few weeks ago. A trained chef walked us through every step from sautéing of the Sofrito to inviting the Bomba rice to the party at the precise moment.

Feeling like it would be no problem to replicate at home, I decided to whip a batch when my mom visited this past week. Everything went pretty well until I cranked up the heat for the Socarrat—the alluring layer of crispy rice—to develop on the bottom of the pan.

Let’s just say that despite the pretty picture on the left, that aluminum paella pan was burned to a crisp. I washed and pleaded and tried to coax all the black ash from the pan to no avail.

Thankfully the pan was relatively inexpensive, and now, I’ll definitely be using my cast iron the next time around. The only good news was being able to separate the burned rice from the not-burned rice thanks to a nice separation between the two. We were able to enjoy the paella without Will or my mom being the wiser.

Funnily enough, the incident reminded me of one from my forthcoming novel, The Honorary Italians. While our leading man Francesco may dazzle everyone with his exceptional Italian food, paella was one dish he couldn’t quite crack. So now I can say I’ve been there, Francesco. I get why you were so frustrated more than ever.

Also for anyone curious, this is paella by way of New Orleans. Instead of traditional accompaniments, I used andouille sausage and red Argentine shrimp. Besides the layer we don’t speak of, it was super yummy.