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~ Spanish-Style Garlic-Lovers Shrimp & Pappardelle ~

IMG_3998While pasta is not an ingredient any of us foodies would off-handedly associate with Spain or Spanish cuisine, it has been incorporated into their diets.  It's not commonly found on restaurant menus, but, in their home kitchens, it is used as an occasional substitution for Spain's claim-to-fame staple, rice, in some of their dishes.  Gambas al ajillo (gam-bus alla-jheero), is one of Spain's most popular tapas dishes, my personal favorite tapas, and, from the moment I tasted it, I knew it could be turned into an extraordinary Italian-pasta meets Spanish tapas main-course.

IMG_3632Gambas al ajillo is a Spanish classic, and, relatively speaking, it is pretty easy to make at home. It is also an example of a "ración" ("family-style meal") turned into one of Spain's most popular pub-grub tapas.  Sweet shrimp are sautéed on the stovetop (in a seasoned 10" terra cotta "cazuela" (ka-sway-la) -- a glazed, earthenware skillet shaped similar to a straight-sided chef's pan) in a goodly amount of Spanish olive oil that has been infused with lots of garlic (shaved and/or minced) and a sprinkling of sliced small red chiles, to taste, for heat. When the shrimp are just short of being cooked through, about 3 minutes, a splash of sherry vinegar, plus a pat of butter to finish off the sauce get added, and the dish, complete with the oily garlic-sauce and a parsley garnish goes on the table.  The dish is served ASAP, family-style, in the cazuela, with plenty of grilled rustic bread slices for sopping up the garlicy oil.

IMG_3958Pappardelle is a broad, 3/4"-wide flat ribbony pasta shape.  While this pasta is traditionally served with rich, thick heavy sauces, it handles the rich, highly-flavored chile-garlic-oil of gambas al ajillo perfectly. Typically, pappardelle is made with an egg-based dough, which renders it richer and fluffier.  The wide surface area of the ribbons render it very absorbent and sturdy, which means pair perfectly with the succulent extra-jumbo shrimp.

When a Spanish tapas dish meets Italian pasta, magic happens.

IMG_3534For the shrimp:

2  pounds extra-jumbo shrimp (16-20 count), peeled, deveined, tails left on (32-40 shrimp)

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon sweet, smoked Spanish paprika

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  1/4  cups high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish, divided thoroughout recipe, 1/4 cup for tossing into shrimp and spices, 3/4 cup for infusing with the garlic and chile peppers

8-10  large whole garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

4  small red chile peppers, super-thinly sliced

1  tablespoon sherry vinegar

1  tablespoon salted butter, for stirring into finished dish

1/4  cup minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

rustic bread slices, toasted or grilled, for accompaniment

IMG_3958For the pasta:

12-16  ounces egg pappardelle pasta, cooked al dente, cooking time to be determined by package directions

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537~Step 1.  In a large bowl, using a large spoon, toss the shrimp with the baking soda, Spanish paprika, sea salt and 1/4 cup olive oil. Set aside at room temperature.  Slice the garlic cloves and the chile peppers, placing them in a small bowl as you work.  Add the remaining 1 cup olive oil to the garlic and chiles and set aside, to steep, at room temperature, 1 hour.  During this hour, stir the shrimp a few times.

IMG_3555 IMG_3555 IMG_3555~ Step 2.  Place the garlic-chile pepper-oil in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pans.  Heat over low heat, until garlic is softened, very fragrant, ever-so-gently sizzling and moving around in the pan by itself, but not browning, 8-10 minutes. The garlic and chile peppers "slow poach", in that, both soften and release their flavor without browning (which renders both bitter).  Turn heat off and cook pasta as directed in next step.

Note:  When preparing classic gambas al ajillo, you would not turn the heat of now.  You would add the shrimp, briefly cook them, and finish the dish -- a process that takes less than 5 minutes. In order for the shrimp to be tender and succulent when the finished pasta dish is taken to the table, the pasta must be ready and waiting for the shrimp the moment they are finished.

IMG_3963 IMG_3963 IMG_3963 IMG_3963 IMG_3963 IMG_3963~Step 3.  In a 4-5-quart stockpot, bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add the salt.  Add the pappardelle.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer and cook until al dente.  In the case of my papparadelle, that takes 9-10 minutes.  Drain pasta into a colander then immediately return drained pasta to the still hot stockpot and place it back on the still warm stovetop.  Transfer and gently toss 6 tablespoons of the garlic-chili-oil from the skillet into the shrimp.  Partially cover the pot of pasta and finish the shrimp as directed.

IMG_3567 IMG_3567 IMG_3567 IMG_3567 IMG_3567 IMG_3567~Step 4.  Adjust heat under the skillet of chile-garlic-oil  to medium-high.  Once it is hot, add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until turning pink, firming up and just short of being cooked through, 3-4 minutes.  (There is no big sizzle when the shrimp hit the pan. The baking soda, gives the exterior of the shrimp the signature "pop", not to be confused with "crunch" and it works magic.  DO NOT, overcook the shrimp -- they will continue to cook while butter melts, parsley gets stirred in, and, while tossing into the pasta.)   Stir in sherry.  Turn heat off.  Stir in  butter.  When butter has melted, stir in half the parsley.

IMG_3987 IMG_3990 IMG_3990~Step 5.  Add all of the shrimp and all of its flavorful oil to the pot of pasta.  Gently toss, and continue to toss, on occasion, for about a full minute, to thoroughly enrobe the pasta in the garlic-chili oil.  Portion into 4-6 shallow bowls, garnish each portion with the remaining parsley and serve immediately.

Superb, succulent, extraordinary shrimp...

IMG_4001... & eggy pasta enrobed in garlic-chile-oil.  Divine.

IMG_4007Spanish-Style Garlic-Lovers Shrimp & Pappardelle:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; 1-cup measuring container; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; 4-5-quart stockpot; colander 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d17d6a16970cCook's Note:  A shrimp with the tail left on is a very pretty presentation, and, depending upon the dish being served, if there is a chance the diner can enjoy the shrimp whole, it serves as a convenient "handle" -- especially if there is a sauce it can be dipped into.  There's more:  As all shrimp connoisseurs know, the last bite of shrimp (located inside the tail), is the most succulent, tasty bite of shrimp.  That said:  Whether in the home kitchen or in a restaurant, peeling shrimp is labor intensive. Leaving the tail on is an indication that the cook or chef cares about you and is serving you the best quality shrimp possible.

The only reason to remove the tail is when the shrimp, usually smaller size ones, are inclusive in the dish, meaning:  the diner needs a fork, spoon and/or knife to eat the dish.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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