Tender shrimp in sizzling garlic-chile oil, served with a side of grilled bread rubbed with more garlic and tomato! Otherwise known as Gambas al Ajillo and Pan Con Tomate! One bite and I am transported back to a magical trip to Barcelona John and I took before kids where we spent long days wandering the city on foot, taking in all the Gaudi, cooling down with chilled bowls of gazpacho and glasses of Verdejo wine. We sat by the beach and ate the famous toasted, broken Fideua pasta paella (bathed in the freshest seafood and sometimes little flecks of spiced chorizo, too) after breakfast sandwiches filled with nutty, rich slices of Iberico ham.
And then I discovered the heavenly combo I’m showing you today at a restaurant called Paco Meralgo, where their speciality is simple, traditional meals done to perfection. This is my attempt to recreate that magic (always with a few twists of my own), and the best part is that this ultra-flavorful meal only takes about 15 minutes to cook, which is why it’s one of our favorites for fast meals all year long and especially when the weather is too hot to be near the oven for long!
10 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup olive oil
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 fresh tomatoes, halved
1 tsp crushed red pepper or chili flakes
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup fresh parsley, leaves finely chopped and tender stems minced
4 slices of sourdough, ciabatta, or other favorite bread that is sturdy enough to hold a tidy pile of shrimp (about 1” thick slices) and will drink up plenty of flavorful chile garlic oil
•Turn broiler on to preheat.
•In a large skillet, add garlic and olive oil. Turn on heat to medium-low. Cook while occasionally swirling the skillet until the garlic is golden and has had time to infuse the oil, about 5-7 minutes.
•In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with salt, sweet paprika and oregano. Let the shrimp marinate for 10-20 minutes as it comes up to room temperature.
•Grate the cut sides of the tomato halves on the large holes of a box grater. Add tomato pulp and any juices to a medium bowl and season with salt and a teaspoon of little drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
•Add chili flakes to the skillet with the oil and garlic and continue cooking to let it infuse for 1 minute before adding in the shrimp. Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook, 2-3 minutes on each side, to desired doneness. Flesh will turn opaque, pale orange and the shrimp’s shape will tighten from a loose “C”-shape to a tighter “C”; well-done shrimp are a tight “O” shape. Once the shrimp are cooked, turn off the heat, then squeeze lemon juice over top, swirl to incorporate, and add fresh herbs. Toss to combine and set aside.
•On a sheet tray, drizzle olive oil on top of each slice of bread (or dunk one side of each into the shrimp oil for extra flavor!). Place under the boiler until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. This happens fast, so watch closely!
•Slice a clove of garlic in half and rub it over the surface of each piece of toast (you can skip this for less garlicky flavor, but it is truly excellent!). Spoon the tomato pulp overtop followed by a little pile of shrimp and its garlic-chile oil. Or you can serve the toast on the side of a nice sized bowl of shrimp for more personalized bites. No wrong way to enjoy!