Sizzling Spanish Garlic Prawns – A Mother’s Day Appetizer

Gambas Al Ajillo

Gambas Al Ajillo – Tapas Style Sizzling Shrimp, Serves 3

Tender, juicy, garlicy shrimp and toasty bread for dipping…seriously, does it get better than that?

Gambas Al Ajillo  (Sizzling Garlic Prawns) is a staple dish in Spanish tapas bars, and for good reason. Typically served with a crisp, white wine, there are two classic preparation of this tapa, depending on whether you prefer to peel the prawns before cooking, I prefer NOT to peel, or remove the heads them first, as there’s so much flavor in the head and shells, and I want that rich shrimpiness infused into the olive oil.

Traditionally cooked and served in a terracotta dish, if you don’t have one (I don’t) use a 10” cast-iron skillet, and leave the heads and shells on. Serve sizzling in the pan, on a trivet (with a warning), as you want the oil to stay hot for dipping.

  •     12 xlg raw prawns, butterflied
  •     3 Tbs. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  •     1 tsp. chili flakes (opt)
  •     2 tsp. smoked paprika
  •     olive oil
  •     6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  •     ¼ cup dry sherry

Pour oil into you cast-iron skillet, and heat to medium-low, add the garlic, and cook to infuse the oil, for 8-10 minutes. Remove garlic from oil, and raise the heat to medium-high.

Butterlying prawns

To butterfly the prawns simply slit the prawns length-ways (but not all the way through) and remove the vein (stomach). Rinse cavity in cold water, pat dry, and toss prawns with sherry and spices. Rub the prawns to get the spices until well coated, and under the shells.

Add prawns to oil (oil should be about half the depth of the prawns).

Cook prawns in oil for 5 – 8 minutes, depending on the size of the dish or dishes, or until pink and sizzling, add back the sweated garlic, and lemon wedges for the last minute (don’t let the garlic brown).

Remove the pan from the heat.

Sprinkle with the parsley and green onion, and serve with crusty bread, lemon wedges, and toothpicks


What’s the difference between a shrimp and a prawn?

Short answer: Not much.

sf_shrmpw07eThe flavors of shrimp and prawns are almost indistinguishable, especially once cooked with other flavors.

If you just have to know, you’ll need to get your shrimp/prawns whole and intact.

Claws at the end of two legs means shrimp, three means prawn. Seriously.

In most parts of the world, especially in the US, “prawn” and “shrimp” are interchangeable terms. Prawns are usually larger, and from fresh water, and shrimp a bit smaller, and from salt water. Both come in a huge variety of sizes and shapes.

The Home Chef: Transforming the American KitchenWe are entering the age of the “Home Chef”, a title that’s available to nearly everyone, regardless of age, or financial standing.

That’s what this book is about…because something amazing has begun to happen in the last two decades, something that has never before happened in the history of cooking…instead of growing wider, the gap between the home cook and the professional chef has actually begun to narrow, and continues to narrow exponentially with each passing year.

The time when these specialized skills were limited to those who could afford the cost and time required for culinary school are quickly passing into history.

The time when the sole requirement to elevate your cooking skills to this level…passion…is emerging.

It’s an amazing time to become a Home Chef…and if you have that passion, I’ll show you how.


Chef Perry P. Perkins





Q&A: Tacos de Pollo


FB Friend, Nichole, asks…

Hi Perry! Looking for a really good way to make shredded chicken for tacos/burritos… I have a stove, oven, and crockpot… sadly no smoker or grill. Any helpful hints? Thank you in advance!

Chef Perry:


I LOVE Tacos de Pollo (though in all fairness, I love ALL street tacos!) 😉

  • #1: Step away from the crock-pot! 😉
  • Use skin-on, bone in chicken thighs, or hindquarters. Never use breasts for shredding, it’s too dry, even when brined, for this recipe. (Plus, they don’t add much plavor to the party.)
  • Pat your chicken dry with paper towels, sprinkle both sides with sea-salt, and let them rest on a rack, at room temp, 20-30 minutes to dry the skin.
  • Pre-heat oven to 325F
  • Combine 1-2 cups hot chicken stock (depending on how much chicken) with 2 tsp New Mexico chili powder, 2 tsp ground Cumin, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp garic powder, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, and the juice of 1 lime*. Let cool. You want enough broth to come about 1/2 way up the sides on the thighs
  • Coat a baking dish with pure pork lard (preferred) or butter.
  • Add stock to baking dish, the chicken, skin side up.
  • Roast, uncovered, 45-60 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden, and the meat is tender.
  • Let chicken rest 20-30 minutes (in stock), before chopping the skin, and shredding the meat, add the meat back to the stock to stay warm, set the chopped skin aside.

*If you have a favorite salsa (but not some nasty bottled stuff, lol) you can skip the stock seasonings, and just add 1/2-1 cup of salsa (I liker Verde) to the stock.

Per Taco:

  • 2 small corn tortillas (I also like a 50/50 flour-corn tortilla), toasted on the grill or in a dry skillet.
  • Fresh white onion, diced
  • Fresh chopped cilantro
  • Pickled jalapeño slices (opt)
  • Lime wedges, and more salsa on the side (or, reduce the pan drippings for sauce.)

I also like “Tinga” style tacos (chicken with peppers and onions)…

Thin slice a couple of red and yellow bell peppers, and a white onion.

Add these to the chicken stock in the baking dish, around the thighs..

Optional: For REALLY next-level flavor, first blister your whole peppers on the grill, or under the broiler, until just blackened on all side.

IMMEDIATELY put the peppers in container with a sealed top, or heavy gallon zip, and let rest 15-20 minutes to steam. Then, scrape off “most” of the blackened skin from the outside, and the seeds and membranes from the insider. Chop the remaining pepper, and toss with cooked chicken.

Here’s a video.


  • No heat: Red/Yellow/Orange Bell
  • Very Mild: Anaheim, Poblano
  • Warm: Hatch (my favorite)
  • Hot: Serrano, Cayenne
  • Stupid: Habañero, Scotch Bonnet


~Chef Perry

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Sanbeiji (Taipei 3-Cup Chicken)


Here’s one of my favorites from my upcoming book, “Grilling: A Home Chef’s Guide”.

Sanbeiji (Taipei 3-Cup Chicken)

Sanbeiji (literally “3-Cup Chicken”) derives it’s name from the 3 sauce ingredients: Soy Sauce, Sesame oil, and Sugar. Originating from the Jiangxi province of China, this is a hugely popular dish in Taiwan.

  •     1 cup Sesame oil                                      1 cup soy sauce
  •     1 cup white sugar                                    4 cloves fresh garlic
  •     8 bone-in chicken thighs                         2 inches fresh ginger

*For shorter cooking time, you can substitute boneless-skinless thighs, but only marinate fro 4 hours, max.

In a mortar and pestle (or food processor) reduce the garlic and ginger to a past.

Mix all ingredients together, adding chicken last. Marinate overnight (or at least six hours) turning one of twice. Pat dry, and brush both sides lightly with oil.

Split Zone Indirect Grilling
Split Zone Indirect Grilling

Spread prepared coals for Split Zone Indirect Grilling


Set the chicken in the cool zone, cover (or close the lid), and cook for 20-30 minutes to an internal temperature of 160F.

One the thighs are at temp,  move them to the hot zone, and grill until well marked on both sides (3-5 minutes per side.)

TaiPei Chicken Thighs

Allow to rest 10 minutes, the slice and serve with Perfect Thai Rice, and a steamed veggie!

The Home Chef
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How to make the best Cubano Sandwich (outside of Miami…)

Cubano Recipe

This is one of my favorite uses for left-over roast pork shoulder (and my all-time favorite sandwich!)

Cubano Sandwich 2Roasting a whole, boneless pork shoulder (or two) is a great way to stretch your grocery budget, and get several delicious meals in one.

I buy my shoulders in 2-packs at Cash & Carry for less than $30, and easily get 8-10 meals from them.

It’s really a great deal!

Now, just as an acknowledgement to all of my awesome Cuban readers, I know that you can’t get a “real” Cubano sandwich, outside of Miami (or Cuba, I would assume), as it’s very hard to find those very special Cuban rolls they use there.

That said, this recipe is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best Cubano you can get…outside of Miami!

This recipe assumes you’re using leftovers from a previously roasted pork shoulder. To roast the perfect pork shoulder, see my recipe for Easy Oven Pulled Pork.

Slicing Roast Pork Shoulder

HomeChef Note: For the Cubanos, you don’t want your roast pork to be quite as “falling apart, as you do for pulled pork. Modify the cooking time to 8-10 hours, and just use salt and pepper, instead of a BBQ rub. Be sure to chill the roast overnight, before slicing.

Leftover Roast Pork Cubanos

For the stock:
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed with the side of your knife
1 small onion, sliced
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 lime, juiced
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

For the sandwich:
1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder, roasted & sliced
1 long Cuban bread roll (or 1/4 whole-wheat baguette)
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
4 slices of Swiss cheese
4 “sandwich slice” dill pickles
8 thin slices deli ham
Olive oil & butter

Greg Dupree

Combine all of the stock ingredients in a saucepan, whisk, and simmer until reduced by 1/3. Add pork roast slices, and heat until it just begins to simmer again, then remove from heat.

Making a Cubano Sandwich
Note: Though not part of the traditional recipe, I like to toast the bread, and put a little sear on the ham, before assembling.

To prepare sandwiches: split bread in half then layer the sandwich (in order) with mustard, cheese, pickles, ham, pork, salt & pepper to taste, then cheese again (the cheese glues it all together). I use whole wheat baguette because it’s the closest approximation to the Cuban rolls that I can find, here on the left coast.

Optional: drizzle a little of the reduced stock over the meat.

A “Plancha”, sometimes call a “panini press” is the key to a great Cubano! Don’t have one? Get one here!

To cook, heat a plancha or or a large cast iron grill pan over medium heat and lightly coat with equal parts butter and olive oil.

If you don’t have a plancha, place the sandwiches on the skillet and top with another heavy skillet and a couple of heavy weights (bricks, or cans of tomato-sauce work well).

What do you mean, you don’t keep bricks in your kitchen? 😉

Cubano sandwich Recipe

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Press down firmly and cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side (butter the top, before flipping) until the sandwich has compressed to about a third of its original size and the bread is super-crispy.

Cubano with Rice and Beans

Serve with homemade plantain chips, or black beans & rice (Moros e Christanos).

Buen provecho!

~Chef Perry

Andrew Zimmern’s Swedish Meatballs

This is dinner tonight! I like mine with creamy mashed potatoes, and a fresh “Bob & Larry” salad!
Might even have a jar of lingonberry jam around here somewhere…or maybe a trip to Ikea is in order (THAT would be a $300 jar of jam…) 😉
Bork bork bork!
~Chef Perry