Ours is not a football home so the Super Bowl is not appointment television unless the Eagles happen to find themselves playing in the game, so it’s seldom that you’ll find us gathered around the television to watch the game, even to watch the commercials. That isn’t to say that we don’t celebrate in our way, often seeing the game as the perfect excuse to make a big pot of chili, but we’re just as likely to nosh it while watching a movie. Besides: I’m looking forward to the third week in April as that will mark two meetups between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in the span of three days for El Clásico and the final of the Copa del Rey. You’ll likely think that I’m nuts, but I’m already planning on what we’re going to have for dinner on those two days…but I digress.
Chili was not the order of the day this year; Michael had been harboring a craving for chicken wings despite enjoying several last weekend at Dinosaur Barbecue, so the challenge became what to serve with them as nothing seemed to really fit: burgers were too easy and neither of us were in the mood to deep-fry potatoes, we had tacos the previous evening, and any other dish I looked at while flipping through books just did not seem to be a good fit with them at all. A recent bout of stomach flu for Michael had him request nothing rich, braised, or stewed, and my frustration grew with every recipe I flipped to, read and subsequently rejected. When he came back from the gym I mentioned needing some help, but as soon as I made that admission I threw out the suggestion of tapas and suddenly we both realized that we had our answer.
Back on the shelf did the other cookbooks go (well, they did eventually) and out came The Book of Tapas. I picked out three that seemed like fun and we ended up making two: Gruyère cheese wrapped in bacon and garlic shrimp as done by José Andrés. Las gambas al ajillo served as a perfect starter to the evening: light and easy to cook, they were a nice counterpoint to the richer food we’d soon be feasting on. What made this a little more special was the addition of brandy—in our case cognac—w which gave the shrimp an ever-so-slightly soused taste that was also a little warm and spicy, making them not completely inappropriate to enjoy when there’s so much snow and ice on the ground. There’s a reason why José Andrés is revered as one of the premiere Spanish chefs working in the U.S.
And then I spent a good fifteen minutes peeling off strips of bacon and wrapping them around blocks of Gruyère cheese and spearing them with toothpicks, Michael generously offered to cook them so I could enjoy some of his amazing wings in between these courses. That’s really all you do—slice ½ inch wide slices of
bacon cheese that are a little longer than the width of the bacon, and wrap each
I keep tantalizing you about those wings, don’t I? Well, I’ll just let Michael take that one on as they were his wings, after all…
Gambas al Ajillo de José Andrés
adapted from The Book of Tapas
- ½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 chile de arból, sliced in half but not seeded
- 2 teaspoons of brandy or cognac
- Chopped parsley to garnish (a little will suffice)
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until browned. Add chile and shrimp, but don’t stir; let shrimp cook on one side for two minutes. Turn shrimp over and cook the other side for another 2 minutes or so. Remove from heat, add brand or cognac, return to heat and cook for another minute until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the shrimp, place into serving dishes, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.