Around the Island

Penelope’s Kitchen: Gambas al Ajillo



For the nearly 18 years I lived in Greenwich Village, I looked forward to weekly dinners at the Spain Restaurant on West 13th Street. It was practically an institution, where memorable occasions of all sorts were celebrated from birthdays, weddings, funerals, visiting relatives and dates.
Over the years I rarely varied my order, Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp and garlic) and veal in almond sauce. The recipe for the shrimp was scribbled in pencil on the back of a receipt and handed to me by the chef, with a smile, through the small serving window. It is something that brings back old times, as many beautiful recipes and dishes tend to do in an almost magical way.

Gambas al Ajillo

1 pound small shrimp peeled, deveined

Salt to taste

1 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1/2 teaspoon paprika

3 tablespoons chopped flat parsley

Dry shrimp in dishcloth or paper towels, then sprinkle salt on both sides and set aside.

Place oil in a warm skillet over medium high heat. When oil is warm, add garlic, then pepper. As garlic turns light brown, add shrimp, sherry and paprika. Sauté shrimp until opaque, taking care not to overcook. Add parsley, then serve with toasted crusty bread.