When my mother-in-law makes gambas al ajillo, everyone seems to be right on time for dinner. We scarf down our salmorejo and croquetas de jamón— first courses that are only a buffer before the true plato del día. Her gambas al ajillo are fantastic, rivaled only by the ones at Madrid’s famous Casa del Abuelo (where you get to see them prepare the shrimp right in front of you and your plate always comes out sizzling).
Her secret can be explained in two words, sherry and butter. Traditionalists cover your ears, my suegra doesn’t make the most typical gambas al ajillo recipe in Spain– but it might be the most delicious!
Gambas al Ajillo Recipe (Serves 4)
- About 1 pound (a little less than ½ kilo) of small, raw shrimp (shelled or unshelled)
- Extra virgin olive oil (Spanish brands preferred!)
- Minced garlic (about 1 tablespoon per person, you can put less or more depending on your love for garlic)
- A splash of dry sherry, I generally use fino or manzanilla (this can be omitted or substituted for a very dry white wine)
- A touch of butter to finish off each serving
- 1-2 small cayenne peppers per serving
- Sea salt for seasoning
- My mother-in-law makes these in individual sized clay dishes (cazuelitas) that you can put directly on the stove to cook in. Here I'll assume most will make the dish in one large pan and then plate separately.
- If the shrimp haven't been shelled, remove the shells
- Completely cover the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil and slowly heat along with the garlic and cayenne pepper pods.
- When the garlic begins to sizzle add the shrimp and sauté a moment.
- Once everything starts to sizzle again, add a splash of sherry and a sprinkle of salt.
- Simmer for about a minute until the shrimp are cooked through (don't overcook!)
- Remove from the heat and divide into four servings.
- Top each serving with a touch of butter, and give it a quick stir before serving.
I hope you enjoy my mother-in-law’s gambas al ajillo recipe as much as we do. If you try it, please leave a comment (she gets a kick out of that!
Other Spanish shrimp recipes you may enjoy
Mar i muntanya recipe (Catalan shrimp and chicken)
Featured photo by: Scaredykat on flickr CC