Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil)

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil) from A Thought For Food
Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil) from A Thought For Food
Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil) from A Thought For Food

I turn 33 on Friday, but my birthday is the last thing on my mind right now. There are plenty of things keeping me preoccupied. We're getting our house painted next week... which I didn't realize would be such a big, expensive project... but it is (yay home ownership!) There are a lot of elements to consider. Most of the exterior needs to be stripped before it can be painted and a couple of shingles will be repaired. The thing that's been stressing us out is the task of picking out colors. Our house is a Victorian, built in 1890, and it has four colors on it (six, if you count the door and the porch floor). My brain can handle one or two, but four is a lot to process. We knew we wanted some greens, but besides that we're completely lost. Luckily, we have a friend who does beautiful home design work and she was gracious enough to guide us through some options. We've picked out a really nice collection: two greens, a dark purple accent, an off-white trim, and a soft yellow for the door. I'm pretty psyched about it.

The other big thing is that in less than two weeks, I'll be heading off to Spain to tour some wineries in Ribera del Duero and Rueda, about 2.5 hours north of Madrid! If that weren't exciting enough, Eric is going to join me at the end so we can spend a few days exploring Madrid. We'll check out as many museums as we can, and the rest of the time will be spent walking and eating and drinking. We're hoping to take a day trip to Toledo, but we haven't made any concrete plans yet.

In honor of our upcoming trip, I pulled out a recipe from the most recent issue of Food & Wine, which happens to be dedicated to Spain (perfect timing!). I've consumed shrimp in garlic oil at my share of tapas restaurants and have never been disappointed. Chances were, this would go well. I made very few adaptations, because why mess around with a good thing? The first, less important change, was that I didn't have whole red chile on hand so I used crushed red chili pepper instead. The other two modifications may be frowned upon by traditionalists, but I felt strongly that I wanted to cut the richness a bit. This is always a thing for me. I love butter and cheese and oil and all that fatty deliciousness, but I'm always looking for balance in a dish. So, acidity is key. The changes seemed harmless enough: a small amount of diced tomato and lemon juice. It did the trick, but didn't alter the integrity of the recipe.

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Chili Oil) from A Thought For Food


Slightly adapted from the September 2017 issue of Food and Wine

4 servings

1 1/2 lbs. shelled and deveined large shrimp, tails intact
Kosher salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic
1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red chili flakes
1/2 cup minced parsley
2 Tbsp. dry sherry, such as manzanilla (alternatively, dry vermouth works)
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Crusty bread, for serving


1. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and let stand for 10 minutes. 

2. Meanwhile, in an 9-10 inch cast-iron skillet, combine garlic and olive oil and cook over moderately low heat until fragrant, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in chili flakes and cook for another 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn a light pink color, approximately 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the parsley, sherry, lemon zest and lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt. Remove from heat and let stand until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.  Serve in the skillet along with some crusty bread.