Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gambas al Ajillo

title
I do like hosting dinners and lunches. Thinking of a theme, planning the menu, deciding which of my three (grand total!) plate settings I will use, mapping out the logistics of getting everything done in between work and other duties. I use up tons of note paper drawing up lists (I love doing this…I never have less then 3 pads of paper at a time), using different colored pens (all metallic…yes, I need my "bling" sometimes too) to categorize different items and tasks.

Sometimes though, the heart and mind may be willing but the body weak. C and I are not always up to the task of planning and executing an 8-10 people sit-down dinner (10 is the absolute max I can squeeze in my place for sit-down…not exactly Ina Garten, I know), including the post-meal clean up (sans dishwasher). We do still love having people over. So what’s the solution? The ubiquitous drinks party!

More relaxed and informal, having people over for drinks leaves you with less to prepare, as well as less to clean up afterwards. At the most you will be using small appetizer plates and forks, which are a snap to wash compared to dinner plates + soup bowl + maybe even salad plates + dessert plate + full-on cutlery. When it comes to food, you only have to think of a few well chosen finger foods and appetizers…easier to make and no less fun to plan and prepare.

This is something I love to cook when I have friends over for drinks because it can be eaten with a cocktail fork or even a toothpick, and you can make it in 5 minutes or less. I like to make this after my guests have just arrived (you want it served hot…and it’s done so fast that your guests won’t even notice you’re gone) and they all have their first drink in hand. There are usually some other cocktail snacks on the table already to keep them busy.

Gambas al Ajillo
(adapted from
Saveur magazine, November 2006 issue)
  • 150 grams shrimp (weight after being peeled and deveined)
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon pimentón de la vera (dulce)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Dried chili flakes, half a sili labuyo (bird’s eye chili), or any chili you like

- Slice the garlic cloves. Pile the parsley leaves over the sliced garlic, then sprinkle the pile with salt. Chop everything together. (You can do this earlier on the same day and keep the mix covered in the fridge)
- Heat the oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot toss the garlic/parsley mix and the chilis in. Let it sizzle for about 10-20 seconds, until aroma wafts up and hits your nose.
- Add the shrimp and immediately sprinkle pimentón over everything. Stir and check for seasoning. Add salt if needed.
- Cook until shrimp is just done. This will happen really fast (about 2 minutes, sometimes less) so watch it!
- Take it off the heat and serve immediately.
- Serves 2-3 as a single appetizer or more if you have other appetizers besides it.

You can serve this on the skillet while it is still sizzling (great drama!) or transfer to a serving plate. This is traditionally cooked and served in earthenware cazuelas but if you don’t have any, feel free to eschew tradition and serve them in retro neon-green bowls with kitschy plastic cocktail forks as I’ve done here. They are delicious on their own, but also great with bread for sopping up the juices (you will want to do this, trust me).

I looked over a lot of gambas recipes until I found one I liked. This one’s procedure is largely taken from Saveur’s November 2006 issue. The addition of pimentón is mine, as I really like the flavor it adds. I also feel that chopping the garlic and parsley together with the salt intensifies the flavor (this was the step taken from Saveur). I added a lot more garlic because: I love garlic, this is about shrimp cooked in garlic after all, and it keeps away vampires :)

Not just for cocktail parties, this makes a fabulous pasta sauce, simply as is, or with the addition of tomatoes. You can also dump the whole thing on a mound of steaming white rice and discover the delicious secret that most Filipinos have known about gambas for years! Cheers!

40 comments:

Midge said...

Garlicky gambas! I really think they're one of the nicest things to serve a parties, Joey, and yours look nice and deliciously piquant.

Ipshi said...

o yumm.. i can almost imagine myself siping a long island and chomping away on these... o come to india and i promise to let u get away from the kitchen ... ummm... once in a while... i think... hehehehehe

M.Tan said...

I had a plate of the garlickiest gambas recently, in the rain, waiting for a movie to start. And yes, ate it with good rice. Perfect.

Belinda said...

Pretty please, come to Georgia and throw a dinner party with me...I promise to wash all of the dishes. :-) This looks amazing, and I love the idea of serving the whole thing with steaming white rice...as a main course, all for me!

Marvin said...

I love your idea of serving the shrimp with those little cocktail forks. What kind of drinks did you serve?

veron said...

Gambas must be one of my favorite "drink" food. I know it's absolute hard to host a sit-down for 10. I think 6-8 is what I'd prefer. Usually if there are more than 10, an informal heavy appetizer plus drinks is the best.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Midge! Thanks :) I agree, they are great for parties!

Hi Ipshi! A fan of long island I see! Haha...you are too funny :) If I go to India I will cook this for you...but you need to feed me some Indian food first :)

Hi M! You paint such a romantic picture of those gambas :)

Hi Belinda! Haha! Thanks for the offer...I'll remember that if ever I do make it to Georgia one day :) Eating everything with rice is a Filipino gastronomic trait...we like to make things our own ;) And yes, it's really good with these!

Hi Marvin! Aren't they so campy-cool? :) I have them in different colors...my mom would not be pleased! We had beers for the guys and rum-coke for me (with Tanduay rum...the only rum for me) :) Other times we have scotch and vodka...I want to experiment with cocktails more!

Hi Veron! Yup, the more people the more a drinks and appetizer party makes sense :) And you can just vary the degree of "heaviness" for the appetizers in proportion with the people and the appetites! ;)

Patricia Scarpin said...

Joey, this is delicious! My husband is crazy for shrimp (I can't eat much, sort of allergy).
I love cooking for friends, too!

katiez said...

Much like the Gambas Al Pil Pil that I so dearly love in Spain.
But, I am rather fond of garlic...
Love the forks!

katrina said...

Okay...if you had US over for drinks, you'd have NOTHING to worry about! If you had garlic chips, we'd already be happy! ;-) So, gambas? We'd be ecstatic na! Seriously, Joey -- the company is MORE important to us than ANYTHING. Juat say the word...Booze+good friends=FUN!!! :-D (And F doesn't even drink, so just the friends is enough.) Call us (and Nena, Mila, et al...)!!! :-D

rowena said...

Joey, perhaps it was the color of the link (would've been sassy if it really had that *bling*), but that Saveur popped right out at me! How I do appreciate Saveur..........

But, on to another note -- I loved your "first meal". I don't know who's luckier...your husband, after learning how he won you over with a less than stellar sinigang, or you, after reading here that he actually helps you out with dinner parties! Sweet!!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Patricia! Sorry to hear about your allergy! A favorite cousin and my good friend's husband both have allergies to shellfish, so I always make sure to have something just as good, but non-shellfish, on the menu :)

Hi Katiez! Thanks! Love garlic too :) I have to try your allioli soon! A Spanish restaurant here makes lapu-lapu (local grouper) al pilpil and I really like it :)

Hi Katrina! You are on! You had me sold at your "equation"...hehehe :) I'll check the dates and call you guys :)

Hi Rowena! I just left a comment on Christine's that your's and her comments about Saveur have got me convinced to subscribe already! The gambas recipe was part of a feature on Madrid...awesome! Heehee :) I love that first meal too! Thanks for giving me the chance to reminisce! I guess we are both as lucky (aaaw!) ;)

christine said...

I made this exact recipe! It's really good. :) And yes, call us! hehe

M.Tan said...

3 votes for drinks + gambas :D

katrina said...

So, I just re-read my comment, which as you can see I left at past 4am. How OBVIOUS was it that I was more than a bit drunk when I wrote it??? ;-) Hehehe...asking for an invitation to an inuman while already drunk...what a lush I am! ;-)

Meeta said...

Garlic and shrimps it cannot get better than that! Just awesome Joey!

SteamyKitchen said...

Now THIS is a wonderful shrimp dish. I love that its easy enough to cook quickly.

and don't we all wish we had Ina's house?!?!?

docchef said...

try making it as a pasta dish.. tossed some freshly cooked spaghetti. that how i do it.. just a sggestion:).. if ur not afaid of carbs:)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Nens! Isn't it? :) Will do!

Hi M! Got it..it's in the works ;)

Hi Katrina! Hahahaha! "!!!" + ALL CAPS = "Hi I'm lush, short for lushius!" Heehee ;)

Hi Meeta! It's great how the sum of just 2 ingredients can become so much greater than its parts :)

Hi Jaden! How right you are! Right now all Ina and I have in common is sometimes being barefoot!

Hi Docchef! Yes, with pasta is definitely one of my serving suggestions :) With rice is also delicious. Bring on those carbs! :)

greenchili said...

Hi! where can i get pimentón de la vera? or can i just use plain pimiento?

K & S said...

ooh this sounds nice and spicy, great with beer :)

lynn said...

Garlic and shrimp is a fabulous combination. Your recipe looks wonderful and I'd imagine every guest would have a lovely time drinking, chatting, and eating those beauties!

ces said...

good for you you can accommodate 10! i can only squeeze in around 7! with a bench on one side:)
i am prepping for a dinner get-together for tomorrow, i would love to serve this gambas! are you free? lol! you'll get the whole sofa, promise:)

Rasa Malaysia said...

This looks too good, my favorite shrimp...slurpilicious. ;)

oggi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen said...

I always add pimenton when I make mine as well. I love having tapas parties. ;)

canDIshhh said...

Looks really really delish!

Kate said...

hey this looks simply mouth watering.Last year my hubby travelled to Spain with business and when he got back made me this wonderful dish.Since then its been an household fav.!Love the photograph u have taken.Lovely colours , gr8 sharpness and lovely composition with your little green forks.

Gourmet Traveller said...

This sounds yummy! They sell a dried herb "al ajillo" mix in the market. It has parsley, garlic and chili. All you need to do is put it with olive oil in a pan and heat slowly to rehydrate then add whatever you want - cubes of beef or shelled prawns and voila! instant dinner. (or in your case, dinner party...)

Kelly-Jane said...

That's a great idea for a hot dish at a drinks party, they look so good as well, and love your little forks :)

I love planning parties too :)

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I'm so glad we will be in Spain very soon. Your Spanish heritage shines through in so much of your food Joey and it's simply delicious! I too love garlic and the flavours in this dish would top my list every time!

Ivonne said...

Oh, my! This is so delicious! I would love to be a dinner guest at your house!

mel said...

Wow! Sarap naman! =)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Greenchili! Pimentón de la vera is Spanish smoked chili powder. It has a wonderful and very distinct taste so I’m not sure what you could successfully substitute for it. You can try paprika or better yet a smoked paprika. Hope this helps!

Hi K&S! Yup :) It’ll go great with a, ice cold beer :)

Hi Lynn! Thank you :) I do hope they did enjoy it! Garlic and shrimp are really fantastic partners!

Hi Ces! That’s 10 in a crunch squeezing in two persons at each end/head of the table instead of one! Hope you enjoyed the gambas if you did decide to serve them :)

Hi Bee! Thanks! :) “Slurpilicious”…I like that :)

Hi Stephen! It does really bring the dish alive don’t you think? :) Tapas parties are the best!

Thanks Candishhh :)

Hi Kate! What a sweet husband you’ve got :) And thank you so much for those lovely words about my photo…I’m very much a beginner, but trying my best, so I am absolutely tickled pink! :)

Hi GT! That sounds great! I must remember to have my aunt look for that next time she’s in Spain :) Thanks for the tip!

Hi Kelly-jane! Thanks :) Party planning is fun huh? I enjoy planning them as much as I enjoy attending them :) I like those forks too, heehee…

Hi Amanda! Thanks for the nice comment :) Lucky you! How exciting! :) I hope you have a wonderful time in Spain!!!

Thanks Ivonne! I would love to have you :)

Thank you Mel :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Gambas and garlic, one of the best possible associations! Your dish looks yummy...

bea at la tartine gourmande said...

oh you just make my mouth water here!
delicious-looking dish!

thess said...

I agree, this will make a real good pasta sauce...Joey this sounds yummmmmy!!

ChichaJo said...

Thanks Rosa! :) They do get on well!

Hi Bea! Thank you! :)

Thanks Thess :) Yes, it makes a great pasta...and you can even vary it a bit by adding tomato to make it a tomato-based sauce, and even adding chorizo for a little Spanish-style "surf n turf" type of sauce ;)

Valli said...

These shrimp sound delicious. I have enjoyed everything on your blog so far. I love your headliner....When life hands you lemons...stick them in your san pellegrino!!!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Valli! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice comment :) San Pellegrino puts me in a good mood...so that is where life's "lemons" go ;)