Ironically, we tried this traditional Spanish dish in Lisbon a few weeks ago and I finally gave it a whirl here in Barcelona after a visit to the gigantic La Boqueria. As you can imagine, I was in my element exploring seafood options through the narrow aisles and checking out the fresh and very inexpensive local produce, cheese, spices, etc. I bought just under a pound of large fresh caught, head-on shrimp for under five dollars – what a bargain!
Even though Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) is simple to make and has just eight ingredients, the process of getting the flavorful sauce to taste perfect is all about sautéing the shells beforehand and then lightly browning the garlic slices before adding the shrimp. Needless to say we devoured the shrimp and sopped up the shrimpy, lemony, olive oily goodness with some crusty torn bread. So delicious!
I adapted my own version from a few recipes I found online. I promise it won’t disappoint!
- 3/4 lb. large fresh shrimp (shells on) – about 13-16 count
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbs. unsalted butter
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 tsp. each of S&P
- 1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
- 2 inch piece dried guajillo or 1/4 tsp. chili flakes (to taste)
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 5 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic lightly smashed but still in tact
Step 1: peel & devein shrimp – keep the shells and put the shrimp in a bowl with a drizzle of oil, minced garlic and S&P to marinate (set aside or put covered in the fridge if cooking later).
Step 2: heat 1/2 of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the lightly smashed garlic cloves, guajillo pepper or pepper flakes and all of the shrimp shells – cook until pink (about 5-7 minutes). Turn off the heat, discard the shells and garlic and keep the oil and pepper in the pan.
Step 3: add the remaining oil, butter and sliced garlic and cook the garlic until lightly golden brown on medium heat. Make sure to keep an eye on the garlic and stir it constantly – don’t let it burn! Once the garlic is golden, add the marinated shrimp and cook for 1 minute a side and turn off the heat.
Step 4: add lemon juice and parsley and pour everything into a bowl.
Serve with some crusty bread and a cold glass of white wine!
Tonight we are going out in the Gothic District for Jesse’s birthday and maybe I will find a few more dishes to recreate!