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.
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.
The 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.
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Chef Perry P. Perkins
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