When I was planning the menu for our big party a few weeks ago, I had it in my head that I would save a few of the dishes to make while people were there, if only to provide a bit of spectacle and give me a chance to retreat from everyone so I could focus on cooking. The problem with this idea is that inevitably everyone likes to gather in and around the kitchen, whether it’s open or not, and so that doesn’t leave for a ton of space in which you can maneuver. Fortunately it turned out that we had way more food than we bargained for and didn’t need either of these dishes, which worked out well for yours truly because I could never decide on a good time to prep them and as a result, I didn’t waste any food from either dish. Score!
So knowing that I had a couple of pounds of frozen shrimp in the fridge and a few links of chorizo in the pantry, I set about figuring out some tapas to make on the Friday of the long holiday weekend. A perennial favorite in my repertoire is gambas al ajillo, and so I got it in my head that maybe adding one of the links of sausage into the dish would make it more substantial and extra-spicy since I had gone for the picante version. A quick Google search yielded that combining shrimp and chorizo was nothing new, but I couldn’t find a recipe that exactly replicated what I wanted to make, so I decided to go for it. This easily falls in the realm of Catalunyan cuisine known as mar i muntanya, and I wanted to make sure it really qualified for it by using cava much like they would for the gambas al ajillo at El Quim de la Boqueria in Barcelona.
Chorizo and shellfish go beautifully together; for further proof I must urge you to make this clam and chorizo dish from Barcelona Wine Bar that I made oh so long ago–and this dish is no exception. I basically treated the chorizo like the garlic in cooking it to get a little brown but removing it with the garlic to focus more on the shrimp, and then taking them out once they were almost done to make the sauce and let it reduce until it was time for everyone to get back in the pool and finish off properly. In retrospect I’m glad that I ended up not making what I was originally envisioning because I’ve stumbled onto something so much better and more flavorful, but still remaining relatively simple. I’m filing it away for our next dinner party (my entertaining bug has been reawakened, which is good since we’re all but a few short months away from prime entertaining season), but I wanted to share it here as well because, well, it feels good to get back in the groove here as well.
Gambas y Chorizo al Ajillo
- 3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 7.9 oz chorizo, either regular or picante
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 small hot red chile (keep whole)
- 3/4 cup dry white Spanish wine or cava (the latter is preferable here)
- 3-4 sprigs thyme
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Season the shrimp well with salt and pepper and set aside. In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add the chorizo and garlic, stirring often. Let them both cook for about 2 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon into a bowl and set aside. Add the shrimp and let them cook for about 3 minutes on each side until just pink; again, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the wine and the thyme, bring to a boil, and then let it simmer until it reduces by half, about five minutes. Add back in the shrimp, chorizo, and garlic and cook until shrimp are completely warmed through; transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately with small skewers or toothpicks.