Perhaps the most common, and implicitly, therefore the most popular, tapa in Spain and in Spanish restaurants world-wide, gambas al ajillo, or fried garlic shrimp, is rightfully so admired. The hot tang of garlic and red pepper flake-infused extra virgin olive oil, perfectly coating tender pink shrimp (king prawns for our UK readers), makes for a luscious and satisying dish, especially when there’s plenty of crusty bread to mop up the magnificently flavorful oil.
The other great thing about this dish is that it’s pretty cheap and incredibly simple to make. Accompanied by a green salad and washed down with a chilled glass of fino or amontillado sherry, or perhaps a flute of cava, this is a great tapa/racione or a light lunch, both in late summer and through the fall. Buen provecho!
- 1 1/2 lb medium shrimp (about 20 medium-sized shrimp), shells removed
- About 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 head of garlic, each clove finely sliced
- 1 tsp (or more if you like it hot) red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons white wine
- Heat a pan to low-medium and throw in your thinly sliced garlic and red pepper flakes.
- Allow the garlic to infuse the oil for about 20-25 minutes by keeping it on low to low-medium heat. You do not want it to sound as though it is cooking the garlic quickly. It should not take on color immediately. This will really flavor your olive oil.
- After about 20 minutes, heat another pan up until it is very hot. Throw a few tablespoons of the garlic-infused oil into the hot pan and then throw in your shrimp.
- Immediately after, pour in a bit of white wine and allow to cook down about a minute. Continue to toss the shrimp so they begin to cook on both sides.
- Add the rest of your garlic oil and cook for another minute or two until shrimp are pink and cooked all the way.
- Serve immediately with lots of good bread.
Note: This dish is actually not authentically made, but I’ve played around with this dish a few times and I love the way garlic can really infuse oil – to me it gives a much stronger garlic flavor to the dish – if cooked more slowly. Traditionally, this dish is made in a cazuela (shallow clay ramekin) either on the stovetop or in a crazy hot oven. If you own a cazuela or similar type of vessel, heat it until it’s screaming hot and then toss everything in at once. You’ll probably only need to cook for about a minute (the garlic should be pretty dark and crispy) before it’s ready to serve.
Check out some other posts you might enjoy:
- Jamon, Jamon, Jamon, Jamon
- Unusual Tapas We Ate, or Madrileno Specialties
- Tame Tapas We Ate in Madrid/Tortilla Espanola Recipe
- Vermut (Vermouth): Rediscovering an Old Classic
- Following “La Seleccion” with a Selection of Pinchos/Tapas