Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp) – Did Someone Say Topless?!?!

shrimp with garlic and lemon - gambas al ajillo y limon
“Where are we going?”
A tapas bar.
What?” He paused and glanced sideways at me. “No way!!”
I just kept driving.
Rubbing his hands together like a mad scientist, he purred, “Yessssss.”

But he ended up sorely disappointed when he realized that he wasn’t going to get to buy me a lapdance afterall.

I actually don’t like the word “tapas.” Its being confused with “topless,” especially with the word “bar” appended to it all the time, is not the problem. It’s pretty funny, actually, when someone’s hopes of having the disgusting pleasure of watching a half-nekkid, half-plastic barbie doll grind her very taut, yet taut in all the most unnatural places, body all over me are dashed with glass of orange juice spiked with red wine. (I have never ever once set foot in any of “those” dance clubs so truly, I have no authority to write about what the women look like nor what they do, so I will stop right now.) No, I don’t like the word tapas because it’s always used wrong. Did I say wrong? I meant wrong-ly. Oh god, here comes petty in pink.

Tapas are Spanish. Tapas are small portions. Tapas are also accompaniments to drink. However, just because paella is Spanish does not mean it is a tapa. Just because a side salad is served on a small plate does not mean it is a tapa. And just because Buffalo wings taste great with an MGD doesn’t mean they are tapas! It’s not some weird, half-assed algebraic theorem in which “if one of three, then tapas.” Tapas must meet all three conditions! All three silly stupid petty conditions, okay?!?!

*breathe* I feel better now.

And yet, I put Gambas al Ajillo into a giant bowl, served it, along with everything else (some of which weren’t really Spanish), buffet-style around my dining room table, and called it “tapas.” Tapas! Spanish? Check. Drinking? Check. Small portions on small plates? *gasp!* They were giant family-style bowls from which each guest ladled, scooped, spooned, etc. a little bit of everything onto to their own ginormous dinner plates. It was a f–king buffet!

I should be hung by my apron strings. No, just for that, I should go spend the night in a topless bar.

These aren’t true, authentic gambas al ajillo, which are shrimp sauteed with only garlic. There is quite a bit of lemon in the sauce and I also added onions, but since they aren’t real tapas anyway, who the hell cares?!

Gambas al Ajillo

In a large bowl, combine zest from 1 lemon, ½ c. fresh lemon juice, 2 cloves finely minced garlic, ¼ c. dry white wine (from Spain, natch), ¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil, ½ small red onion thinly sliced, and about 2 sprigs finely chopped fresh parsley.

Rinse, de-vein, and peel about 2 lb. large shrimp. You can take the tails off, but I left them on as “handles.”

Poach peeled shrimp in simmering water for about 1 minute, until they are opaque. Remove from water, and immediately place into the bowl with the sauce. Toss to coat the hot shrimp, cover, and let stand at room temperature until they are ready to serve, or in the refrigerator if making it ahead. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve with toasted, thinly sliced bread.

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  • Anonymous

    Looks delicious for first thing in the morning! Can I get coffee with that?

  • Anonymous

    Looks delicious for first thing in the morning! Can I get coffee with that?

  • vanessa

    I agree about “tapas.” It’s used just about everywhere when other languages have perfectly good words for it. Though it’s hilarious when folks put on airs and try to pronounce it with a Castillian accent even though they consider English and English to be their first and second languages.

    btw, i am so down for amazing graze dine and dish. looking forward to it. and…not to freak you out, but i encountered a pesky pop up on the amazing graze page that wouldn’t go away : {

  • Craig

    sarah-see i still read the blog :)

    tapas, small plates, japanese bites with sake, its all good, its got to better than one of the first parties I threw with some friends, jenos pizza bites, chung king egg rolls, and mini hot dogs.

  • sarah

    anonymous: thank you! and you know, it’s never too early for sangria :)

    vanessa: i actually do try to pronounce the word somewhat like what i think it would sound like, but i have never been to spain, so i probably totally butcher it LOL!

    craigm: what’s better than jeno’s pizza bites?!?!

  • Anonymous

    Only someone who is in desperate need of a life whines about how other people incorrectly use the word tapas.

    And what makes you an expert anyway?

  • Skip

    The hummus and olive plate at Plan B is really good.

    Uh…or so I’ve been told.

    Ahem.

  • sarah

    anonymous: i am very desperately in need of a life. i haven’t stepped foot outside my kitchen in weeks. :) and i am no expert. i am just good at googling.

    skip: you just made me *almost* send diet pepsi through my nose, laughing!

  • hermz

    Once the tapas craze hits the South, I’m pretty sure it’ll be pronounced TAP-ASS. :P

  • sarah

    i kinda like it.

    tap. ass.

    sounds better. ;)

  • Diane

    From Augusta Georgia I can tell you Tapas are already here…. though since we generally pronounce it Dis-gusta Georgia you are right they are really more like Tap.Ass…. Lord can these people ever figure out how to cook SOMETHING right??

  • Diane

    From Augusta Georgia I can tell you Tapas are already here…. though since we generally pronounce it Dis-gusta Georgia you are right they are really more like Tap.Ass…. Lord can these people ever figure out how to cook SOMETHING right??

  • Lisa

    As I have holiday homes in Spain, I spend time a lot of time along the coastline of Spain.I try tapas from the North to the South of Spain – & all add their own regional take on the dishes.
    A fantastic book that most Spanish homes own is "1080 Spanish recipes" this has some truly authentic recipes.
    Mealtimes can last hours in Spain. Breakfast is a banquet, from pastries, cakes, breads, meat, cheese, conserve, fruit, hot chocolate (Cola Cao)etc…
    Lunch is generally spent in a bar/tapas bar – with at least 10 different dishes (a favourite of mine is Sardines, with olive oil, sea salt & lemon)
    As for dinner – that is a banquet, starting around 9pm & ending around 11pm!
    Around 10-11pm is when most Spanish go out to socialise.

  • Lisa

    As I have holiday homes in Spain, I spend time a lot of time along the coastline of Spain.I try tapas from the North to the South of Spain – & all add their own regional take on the dishes.
    A fantastic book that most Spanish homes own is "1080 Spanish recipes" this has some truly authentic recipes.
    Mealtimes can last hours in Spain. Breakfast is a banquet, from pastries, cakes, breads, meat, cheese, conserve, fruit, hot chocolate (Cola Cao)etc…
    Lunch is generally spent in a bar/tapas bar – with at least 10 different dishes (a favourite of mine is Sardines, with olive oil, sea salt & lemon)
    As for dinner – that is a banquet, starting around 9pm & ending around 11pm!
    Around 10-11pm is when most Spanish go out to socialise.

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