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One of my favorite Spanish dishes, Gambas al Ajillo (garlic prawns) is a very quick and easy to prepare shrimp recipe that's made on the stove top. This luscious and satisfying dish consists of shrimp that are sauteed quickly in olive oil that has been laced with lots of garlic and some red chiles. It is usually offered as an appetizer or served as a "tapas" in many restaurants, but we sometimes like to accompany it with rice or pasta along with a green salad and make a full meal of it. You'll also want to have plenty of crusty bread on hand to capture the delicious pan juices from these garlicky crustaceans. Buen provecho!
Finely mince 3 garlic cloves, or put them through a garlic press. In a medium bowl, combine minced garlic with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt. Stir in shrimp and let marinate at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, smash 3 garlic cloves. Heat smashed garlic with remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is a light golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and allow oil to cool to room temperature. Remove smashed garlic from skillet and discard.
Thinly slice remaining 6 cloves garlic. Return skillet to low heat and add sliced garlic, bay leaf, and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is tender but not browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. (If garlic has not begun to sizzle after 3 minutes, increase heat to medium.) Increase heat to medium-high; add shrimp with marinade to skillet in single layer. Cook shrimp, undisturbed, until oil starts to gently bubble, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn shrimp over and continue to cook until shrimp are cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.
Serve with lots of warm crusty bread and accompanied by flutes of a good sparkling wine, such as a Cava, or even a fine Champagne.
Makes 4 to 6 for appetizer servings. If preparing as a main course, double the recipe.
* Note: The slightly sweet and nutty Cascabel chile is the traditional chile used in gambas al ajillo but the New Mexico chile (a.k.a. California chile, chile Colorado, or dried Anaheim chile) is a good substitute. Crush and roughly break the chili pepper into 2 or 3 pieces (for more spice and heat, chop it finely).
This dish depends on great shrimp! You can use previously frozen shrimp, if that's all that is available. But if you're able to find fresh shrimp from North Carolina or the Gulf of Mexico, or even the small red Maine shrimp that are available around January, you'll make a dish you'll never forget. Also, try to cook the shrimp with at least part shell intact, the end portion and tail. In my opinion, it makes an enormous difference in the shrimp's full flavor.
Even though the dish contains red chile, it is not meant to be overpoweringly spicy...just spicy enough so that you can feel a little heat in your mouth.
This dish can also be made with squid, cut into 1/2-inch wide rings, or sea or bay scallops substitute for the shrimp.
Traditionally Gambas al Ajillo is served in earthenware ramekins or cazuelas de barro in Spanish. While any frying pan or skillet will do, these ramekins are inexpensive and fairly easy to find. The advantage of cooking in ramekins is you serve the dish in the ramekin immediately from the stovetop, which allows the shrimp to continue cooking in the oil even after they've been served. The ramekins also look nice on the table and don't take up much room, which is helpful if you're preparing four or five tapas all at once.
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"Tender shrimp, and were amped up by the smokey heat of rich tomato sauce. This sauce is begging to be used in more dishes - I'm thinking enchiladas, huevos rancheros - the possibilities are endless!" —
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garyjoeyExcellent tasting, easy recipe. Once finished, the sprinkling of parsley not only added flavor, but made the dish look like prepared by a master chef (I am not!). Would recommend this dish to anyone who wants to take there shrimp to the next level! Put it on a bed of wild rice that sealed the deal. Will make again for sure.1y ago
wolvrineI made this last night it was fast, it was easy and it was delicious! I would definitely make this again.1y ago
saramastersOMG it was amazing! I doubled, added scallops, served over angel hair pasta that was already seasoned with garlic salt and olive oil. We LOVED it! Definitely making it again.2y ago
GuamericaQuick, easy, and very yummy! Will make again!2y ago
littleduckLoved the dish and will gladly make it again! Loved the garlic with a little bit of heat.. Yumm!!3y ago
dayaniramachandranawesome recipe.. only thing i changed was i added powdered dry shrimp instead of bay leaves and that kicked up the taste several notches higher..3y ago
tabby69We loved this. The perfect amount of garlic!3y ago