Fish & Seafood

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

March 26, 2014 (Last Updated: January 3, 2020)

I recently divulged details about a fun Spanish tapas party I hosted in honor of my sister’s birthday. Today I’d like to share another recipe from the event! Gambas al Ajillo (or garlic shrimp) is perhaps one of the most popular tapas dishes out there. There is a version of this recipe in almost all 5 Spanish/tapas cookbooks I own. You can’t really go wrong with shrimp and garlic.

I selected this version over the others because I liked the idea of using the sweet Sherry to create a thickened sauce for the shrimp. The other recipes didn’t include this ingredient, but I figured it seemed pretty Spanish and actually softened up the garlic flavor for the shrimp. It was sweeter/softer than most garlic-based dishes. The Golden Sherry reduces and is emulsified with butter to create a beautiful delicately garlicky glaze with a slightly sweet edge.

This preparation for shrimp is so simple that I can see myself whipping this together on a whim since all of these ingredients (minus the shrimp) are ones I now have on hand. It cooks in just minutes and has a lovely dynamic flavor.

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
Serves 4
(Adapted from The Barcelona Cookbook)

20 medium shrimp (21-25 count), peeled and deveined, with tails left on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
1 cup Christian Brothers Golden Sherry (I used Taylor brand instead)
2 pinches hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Lightly rinse the shrimp under cold running water. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Lightly season the shrimp with salt and pepper.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the garlic and shrimp and sear for about 3 minutes, turning once or twice, or until the garlic is lightly browned. Add the sherry to the pan, being careful in case it ignites (if it does, remove the pan from the heat and the flames will subside quickly). Stir in the pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes longer, or until the shrimp is cooked through and pink.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a serving dish and leave the sherry in the pan. Still over high heat, reduce the sherry for 7 to 10 minutes, or until it becomes a glaze.

Add the butter to the pan, swirling it over medium heat until melted. Return the shrimp to the pan, toss with the glaze, and serve immediately.

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