Nov 29, 2011

Recipe for: Gambas al Ajillo Tapas

FROM THE KITCHEN OF: Isabel Canfield
TOTAL TIME: 15 min to prepare, 5 min to cook
1 cup of marinade for 2 pounds of shrimp

Our honeymoon trip to Spain opened our eyes to a completely new way of eating. It was probably the best decision we made while planning our wedding. Granted, we’re still paying for it, but the trip was worth every penny. One dish we took home with us is Gambas al Ajillo, a very common tapa of Spain. Also known as garlic shrimp, I wanted to recreate this recipe because I fell in love with its simplicity and flavor. Spain taught us to appreciate food in the simplest form so fresh shrimp cooked slowly in a trio of garlic, chili and olive oil is as simple as you can get. Served with warm crusty bread, I made this at my last dinner party where heavy appetizers were served. The garlicky marinade doubles as an amazing dipping sauce for the bread. The ingredients in this recipe just work so harmonious together. Gambas al Ajillo was by far a favorite in Spain and now, right in the comfort of my home.

1 cup olive oil
3 dried chile costeños, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 lbs of fresh shrimp
salt + pepper

1. Prep the shrimp. First things first, get the shrimp ready. Peel the shrimp removing the hard shell and tail. Taking a paring knife, cut lengthwise along the backside of the shrimp to remove the digestive track. Don’t cut so deep, just enough to remove the track with the pointy tip of the knife. The track is very unpleasant to eat and not really appealing. Gently rinse all the shrimp once they’ve been prepped. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the Gambas al Ajillo.

2. Make the marinade. Finely mince the garlic cloves. Roughly chop the dried chili pods, but first removing the seeds and discarding them. Combine these ingredients in a medium-size bowl with olive oil, 1 tsp of each salt and pepper. Mix together, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

I found these Chile Costeño at a local Latino market in Richmond. However, I did recently see some dried bags of chili pods at Kroger. Not sure if they’re the same type of chili pods, but it should work. You’ll have to adjust your recipe according to how hot they are. The Chile Costeño are moderately hot, so I decided 3 pods would work for me.

You can make this marinade days in advance. Just place the marinade in an air-tight container.

3. Cook the shrimp. Heat a small sauce pan on medium to low temperature. Add 1/4 of the marinade to the pan. Allow the oil to heat up slowly. Once it’s warm, add 10-12 shrimps. Slowly cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes per side. Don’t overcook! Serve with slices of warm fresh bread. Once this serving has been eaten up, cook up another batch in the same oil adding a little more marinade to the pan.

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