Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Olive Tree Mail Bag #1: Gambas al Ajillo
Welcome the the first installment of the Olive Tree Mail Bag. This is the area of the blog where I will be answering reader requests for recipes and tips. We begin with a request from Nicole for gambas al ajillo, a popular Spanish dish of shrimp cooked in sizzling olive oil with heaps of garlic and red pepper flake. Traditionally, the shrimp are cooked and served in piping hot earthenware bowls. Unfortunately, I don't have room for uni-taskers in my kitchen, so much to my mother's chagrin, I served mine in a plain old white bowl.
Because there are so few ingredients, it's important that the olive oil be the best, richest, fruitiest extra virgin kind that you can find. It will be the base for the 'sauce', so bad olive oil just will not do. This dish is rarely served without a few pieces of warm crusty bread for sopping up the bits of garlic and oil, so I recommend warming some up in the oven. I remember as a kid I could care less for the shrimp, all I wanted was for someone to push aside the warm red dish and move on to the next tapa. While the adults were eating I was tearing a baguette into tiny pieces that with one swish of the wrist would absorb all of the oil and act as a little edible flotation device for the sweet, yellowed garlic. The oil somehow doesn't seem greasy, maybe because it's fragrant with garlic and slightly spicy with the red pepper flake.
I used shell on shrimp for this dish because I enjoy peeling them while listening to some of my favorite music, but by all means buy them already peeled--it doesn't make a difference in the flavor and will definitely save you some time. As for the garlic it seems like a lot, but the olive oil really mellows the flavor, especially since it's still so light in color when the dish is finished. I made it for myself as an entree, but if you just have a few leftover raw shrimp, that's perfect. Here's how to go about it:
Gambas al Ajillo
3/4 lb of medium sized shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp red pepper flake
1. Heat olive oil in a medium pan. Add garlic, shrimp, and red pepper flake. Salt to taste. Mix to combine.
2. When the shrimp are almost completely opaque, flip them over and cook until done. Enjoy!