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Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

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    Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

    This ubiquitous Spanish dish can be served as an appetizer, tapas or main course. The number served depends on what is being used for.

    I agglomerated a few recipes to produce this. I was attempting to reproduce a favorite version from a NYC restaurant that used to be a favorite when I was younger.

    Timing - There's a decent amount of prep, but the cooking goes fairly quickly.

    • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
    • 1 pound medium to large, shell-on or EZ peel shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved (I used size 31-40)
    • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    • 10-12 cloves garlic, divided
    • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
    • 3 Tablespoons dry sherry
    • 1½ teaspoons sherry vinegar or lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, divided
    • 2 tablespoons cold butter, divided
    1. Finely mince (or grate) 4 garlic cloves and place in large bowl. Smash 2-4 cloves under the flat side of a knife and place in a large skillet. Thinly slice remaining four garlic cloves and set aside.
    2. Add shrimp to the bowl with minced garlic. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and baking soda. Toss to combine thoroughly and set aside at room temperature.
    3. Add shrimp shells to skillet with smashed garlic and add remaining olive oil and pepper flakes. Set over medium-low to low heat and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until shells are deep ruby red, garlic is pale golden brown, and oil is intensely aromatic, about 10 minutes. Oil should be gently bubbling the whole time. When ready, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, tossing and pressing the shrimp shells to extract as much oil as possible. Discard shells and garlic.
    4. Return flavored oil to the skillet over moderate heat. Add sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until shrimp are barely cooked through, about 2 minutes.
    5. Stir in sherry, sherry vinegar or lemon juice, paprika, 1½ teaspoons (½ tablespoon) cold butter, and half the parsley.
    6. Cook until butter has melted, about 1 minute, then remove from heat and add remaining 1½ tablespoons cold butter. Swirl until all butter has melted and sauce has emulsified and thickened slightly. You can turn the pan to very low heat if necessary, but it shouldn't be.
    7. Serve shrimp topped with the pan sauce. Garnish with remaining flat-leaf parsley. Serve with oven-warmed crusty bread to mop up the extra sauce, or serve over plain rice.
    Click image for larger version

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    Last edited by Dewesq55; January 8, 2022, 01:00 PM. Reason: Add photo

    Thank you. One of my favorite dishes ever.


    • Dewesq55
      Dewesq55 commented
      Editing a comment
      Mine as well.

    I enjoy a little shrimp.
    Cocktail sauce


      You had me at Gambas (although that really translates as prawns but who cares) !!! Good looking dish, thanks so much for posting the recipe. Going into Paprika as we speak.


      • bbqLuv
        bbqLuv commented
        Editing a comment
        Prawns, are they not the little guys on a chessboard?

      • Dewesq55
        Dewesq55 commented
        Editing a comment
        It does translate as prawns, but I'm told that in Spain, shrimp on a menu is always(?) called Gambas. Camerones it's used more in Latin America.

      Sounds wonderful. I'll be trying this very soon. You mentioned baking soda in the directions but I didn't see a quantity. How much do you add?



      • Dewesq55
        Dewesq55 commented
        Editing a comment
        ¼ teaspoon for a lb of shrimp.

      • Dewesq55
        Dewesq55 commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks for pointing that out. I have made the correction to the recipe above.

      Thanks! This is happenin' soon.


        I made this recipe tonight. It was delicious... thanks to David's recipe, hubby and I are proud members of tonight's Clean Plate Club.

        The Fresh Market shrimp I used was already shelled and deveined, so I added 1 tsp Better Than Boullion Lobster Base to the oil instead of the shrimp shells.

        Also, as I always do with shrimp, I treated it to a bath in sake before draining and adding to the oil/garlic/baking soda mixture. Rinsing shrimp in sake adds a brightness and takes away some of that fishy-ness, which is sometimes present with defrosted shrimp. This batch tonight smelled just fine, but it got a sake bath nonetheless.

        Thanks, David Dewesq55 , for the delicious recipe. I think you should post that wonderful photo that you put into your SUWYC post about this dish. That's what sold me to start out with. I was happy to see that the recipe followed in a few days.

        Last edited by fzxdoc; November 16, 2021, 06:50 AM.


        • bbqLuv
          bbqLuv commented
          Editing a comment
          Sake, a rice wine brewed like beer from rice, had to look that up.
          thank you.

        • efincoop
          efincoop commented
          Editing a comment
          I just dumped a bottle of sake because I never use it. If I had only known

        I’m going to have to try this……


          Question: When is the best time to add the red pepper flakes? You have the add in both steps 3 & 4.


          • fzxdoc
            fzxdoc commented
            Editing a comment
            FWIW, I add the pepper flakes in step 4 so they are not strained out. I like them in the final dish.


          • rodkeary
            rodkeary commented
            Editing a comment

            Thanks for confirming. I "guessed" correctly last night and the dish turned out wonderfully.

          • Dewesq55
            Dewesq55 commented
            Editing a comment
            It's been awhile and it's possible that the pepper flakes in step 3 might have been a mistake when writing down the recipe. I don't think there's a problem with adding them in both step 3 and step 4, but they definitely belong in step 4 for the reason fzxdoc mentioned: you don't want them strained out of the final dish.


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