So I did not have a train wreck making birthday party paella on Saturday. I believe it was a huge success and I encourage anyone to try it at their next birthday party.
I found a recipe called "Birthday Party Paella" on Epicurious and that was the launching point. Followed the recipe fairly religiously but with a couple exceptions. First, I doubled it. So now we're making paella for 20. Used 3 different kinds of chorizo. Sauted the Arborio rice in olive oil briefly to get it started before mixing everything together (except for the seafood) with the boiling saffron-scented stock in a Le Creuset goosepot. Then my super strong husband carried it to the oven. He said that it probably weighed 50 lbs. No joke.
I bet it cooked for an hour before we added the shrimp and lobster. Yes, my fabulous aunt brought 3 or more losters that had been cleaned and halved yet still in their soon-to-be bright pink shell. I purchased 10 dozen mussels at Costco but we couldn't fit anything else it that enormous goose pot (or baby casket as one guest described it). So mussels in a white wine and garlic broth it was. Even they were fab. One of the guests took over that job and made them perfectly, not a rubbery one in the bunch. Truly, and I heard this from several guests, better than any they've had before. Tender and winking, just flirting in that broth.
I will never be able to live up to the standard I set for myself. We were all just awed by the beautiful overflowing goospot. The bounty and spectacle of it all. The house smelled great. The next day when I went to clean the oven (and boy did it need it because the goosepot overflowed), even the drippings smelled great.
Thank you all for talking me through paella 101 and giving me the confidence to undertake it. It really isn't hard at all and the payoff is huge for a party.
Now if I could figure out how to post a picture to this redesigned Chowhound I'd post the one lame picture I took.