Tapas just might be the original “happy hour.” With dinner in Spain usually served around 11 pm, there is significant time between the end of the work day and dinner. The Spaniards brilliant solution to this gap is to go bar hopping where they can meet friends, drink beer and wine, and munch on endless small plates of the incredibly flavorful hot and cold small dishes known as tapas.
The word “tapas” comes from the Spanish tapar (to cover). The most plausible of many origin stories is that the innkeepers of Andalusia would keep the annoying flies out of their guests glasses of Sherry by covering the glasses with slices of bread or small plates of that evening’s menu to sample.
The meats used on the small plates covering the sherry was most often chorizo or jammon (ham), both very salty and requiring more drinks. This led to the creation of more salty snacks and by default, even more drink sales.
Tapas have evolved over time through the incorporation of new ingredients from invaders (Romans, Moors, tourists), the fruits of colonization, especially from the “New Word,” and modern creativity. Gambas de ajillo is one of the most popular of the endless array of tapas dishes.
Gambas de Ajillo (Shrimp and Garlic)
- Frying pan
- 1 lb Medium or large shrimp, peeled Fresh or frozen
- 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt
- ¼ tsp Baking soda
- ½ cup Extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
- ½ cup White wine
- 7 cloves Garlic, sliced thin
- ¼ cup Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tsp Paprika (sweet or smoked)
- ⅛ tsp Red chile flakes
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- In a coleder in the sink, sprinkle shrimp with salt and baking soda. Leave for at least 10 minutes the rinse and thoroughly dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with a little black pepper and the paprika.
- In a pan over medium-low heat, cook the oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and parsley until the garlic begins to sizzle. Be careful not to let the garlic burn or the dish will become bitter and non-recoverable.
- Add the shrimp and stir until they become pink and opaque. Stir in the white wine. Salt and pepper to taste, and cook for a minute or-so until the wine evaporates and the sauce reduces a little.
- Serve in a casserole or divided between small plates or ramekins and don't forget tons of crusty bread to mop up the sauce.