Friday, June 6, 2014

Gambas al Ajillo - AKA: Garlicky Tapas Heaven (in minutes!)

Ever walk by an Italian restaurant or pizza place and pause a moment to smell the intoxicating aroma of warm garlic? I sure have, and if you ask me, there's nothing really like it. Where garlic is concerned, the more the better - and who cares about garlic breath, anyway? I consider it a bonus. That's why when I was recently jonesing to put together a quick tapa as an al fresco appetizer (summer is here!), I stopped right at this drool-worthy Garlic and Shrimp combination: Gambas al Ajillo or Shrimp with Garlic, Spanish style. 

Gambas al Ajillo, The Garlicky Tapa That Everyone Loves, Photo: NK 

Gambas al Ajillo can be found all over Spain and really anywhere where tapas are served. It doesn't get more classic than this garlicky to the max dish. And when you see how fast this delicious tapa comes together,  you'll be completely smitten. It is almost too easy. And the taste, oh the taste - just luscious. A nice kick of spice from the Crushed Red Pepper and smoky complexity from Spanish Paprika - one of my favorite spices that is also responsible for the striking reddish color of the shrimp sauce, make an amazing flavor combo. Be certain to buy yourself a nice loaf of rustic peasant bread to soak up the garlicky oil goodness at the bottom of the bowl. Now sit yourself down with a a nice dry white or rose and enjoy the king of all tapas. You will not be disappointed!

Gambas al Ajillo / Spanish Garlic Shrimp Tapa
Lightly adapted from (topic: Spanish Food)
Serves 4 as an appetizer

24 Medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
5 large Cloves of Garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon Sweet Spanish Paprika
3 Ounces of Cognac (or substitute Dry Sherry or Bourbon)
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 Cup chopped Italian Parsley
Juice of 1 Lemon 
1 round, crusty Peasant Loaf, cut into large chunk and lightly toasted
Coarse Salt
Black Pepper

Note: this is a fast cooking recipe so be sure to have all your ingredients measured and ready to roll before you start. 

1. Heat Oil over a medium flame for a minute and add the minced Garlic and Crushed Red Pepper. Stir gently for about 2 minutes, taking care that the Garlic doesn't burn. 
The mixture will become fragrant. 

2. When the Garlic becomes just slightly brown, add the Shrimp, Lemon Juice, Cognac (or substitute) and Paprika. Raise the flame to high and stir constantly until the Shrimp become pink and curl up. About 2 more minutes.

3. Season the mixture with one or two healthy pinches of Salt, and ample Black Pepper. 
To Serve: Plate equal portions on Shrimp into individual bowls and add some of the Garlic and Oil Mixture on top. Sprinkle each bowl with chopped Parsley and serve with a generous wedge of crusty toasted Bread.


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