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Boogaloo

Paella from Boogaloo. Photo by Dawn Majors

Q: I would love the recipe for the paella from Boogaloo. The restaurant is a great spot, and this has become our favorite dish when dining out.

— Mary Troll, Maplewood

A: With the windows flung open, the fans spinning and island rhythms churning, by all rights Boogaloo should face the beach, not Manchester Road. Since 2005, the restaurant has been serving Cuban, Creole and Caribbean food from local restaurateur and chef Mike Johnson, whose credits include Roxane, BARcelona, Bici Café and more.

The restaurant is known for its mojitos and sangria, often sipped while swinging at the bar — yes, the bar has rope swings, not stools. Colorful murals of jazz musicians painted by Johnson's mother and aunt brighten the walls.

Johnson just added a smoker and is now smoking briskets, ribs, chickens and pork shoulders.

Johnson says that people who like red beans and rice will love Boogaloo's paella. Piles of fresh seafood and coconut milk make it special. "I love the coconut milk," Johnson says. "It's really delicious, and the whole dish is really healthy."

A big pan of paella (pronounced pie-AY-ya) makes for a festive party. It takes about an hour to prep everything in advance, including cooking (not baking) the rice, then needs only minimal hands-on attention after guests arrive. About 30 minutes before serving (longer if the rice has been refrigerated), put the rice in the oven. Add the remaining ingredients in stages; this way, the meat and seafood will be perfectly cooked and tender.

Special Request is written by Kirkwood resident Alanna Kellogg, author of the online recipe column KitchenParade.com and "veggie evangelist" at the food blog about vegetables, A Veggie Venture.