Simplicity is not always synonymous with traditional when it comes to recipes, but with gambas al ajillo, a handful of choice ingredients is enough to recreate one of Spain’s most famous tapas. Fresh shrimp is cooked briefly with garlic, dried red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and extra virgin olive oil in a preparation equally at home in minimalist and traditional recipe collections.
Paprika, parsley, and lemon juice are not even mentioned, but hopefully this serves as a good starting point for your own variations. Just don’t forget the crusty bread — gambas al ajillo is as much about the shrimp as the garlic-infused oil.
recipe adapted from Penelope Casas’ The Foods and Wines of Spain
Gambas al Ajillo
Garlic Shrimp Tapas
makes 1 tapas-sized serving
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced thinly
pinch dried red pepper flakes
1/2 bay leaf
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces small fresh shrimp, shelled
pinch coarse sea salt
- Devein or not devein? According to Penelope Casas, shrimp is never deveined in Spain, but it’s all about personal preference.
- In a room temperature earthenware pot (cazuelas) or small skillet, place the garlic, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and extra virgin olive oil. Heat over medium-high until the garlic is sizzling and pale golden.
- Add the shrimp and cook while stirring, about 2 minutes.
- Season with coarse sea salt.
Serve sizzling in the cazuelas or in a shallow warmed bowl with crusty bread.