A photograph of Gambas Al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp) and Croma Vera's Albariño.

A Unique Twist on Gambas Al Ajillo Paired with Albariño

By Randal Lehr, Tasting Room Associate

Gambas Al Ajillo, or Spanish Garlic Shrimp, is a classic dish that embodies the essence of Spanish tapas. It is beloved for its simplicity, rich flavors, and quick preparation time. It is also a beautiful pairing with Croma Vera's Albariño.

For the past four decades, I've been perfecting my take on Gambas Al Ajillo, a dish that holds a special place in my culinary heart as one of my favorite tapas and shrimp recipes.

My rendition veers slightly from the traditional path, as I infuse it with smoked paprika, introducing an earthy and smoky dimension that complements the shrimp beautifully. This personal twist was inspired by a compelling technique from Serious Eats, where creating a shrimp-infused oil enhances the dish with an additional layer of richness and complexity. Trusting the culinary insight of Kenji and his team at Serious Eats has never led me astray; their approach to cooking always introduces an innovative flair that aligns with my own culinary philosophy.

Pairing this dish with a crisp and aromatic Albariño from Croma Vera brings a harmonious balance, elevating the flavors to a celestial level, reminiscent of the Iberian Peninsula's epicurean delights.

To round out the meal, I serve this with a freshly baked crusty baguette and golden fried artichokes.


  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, or a 1-inch piece dried guajillo chile
  • 1 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Fino (dry) sherry
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves


Finely mince 4 garlic cloves and place in large bowl. Smash 4 cloves under the flat side of a knife and place in a large skillet. Thinly slice remaining four garlic cloves and set aside.

Add shrimp to bowl with minced garlic. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and baking soda. Toss to combine thoroughly and set aside at room temperature.

Add shrimp shells to skillet with smashed garlic and add remaining olive oil and pepper flakes. Set over medium-low to low heat and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until shells are deep ruby red, garlic is pale golden brown, and oil
is intensely aromatic, about 10 minutes.

Oil should be gently bubbling the whole time. When ready, strain through a fine-
mesh strainer into a small bowl, tossing and pressing the shrimp shells to extract as much oil as possible. Discard shells and garlic.

Return flavored oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sliced garlic and paprika and cook, stirring constantly, until pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until shrimp are barely cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Add sherry vinegar, sherry and parsley and toss to combine.

Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately.


About Randal Lehr

Randy joins Croma Vera with background in wine, hospitality management and the expertise of a certified professional chef. He previously worked at Chateau Margene, Giornata Winery, Broken Earth Winery and J. Lohr Vineyards and Winery, as well as the General Manager of a resort in Makaha, Hawaii, and operated his own restaurants in San Francisco and San Diego. Randy has a degree from the California Culinary Academy, is a certified judge for the Kansas City BBQ Society, and makes his own sprice rubs for sale at Lehr's Epicurean Products.


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