It’s not hard to find truly authentic ethnic cooking in a great city like ours, but sometimes it can be elusive. That’s not because it isn’t plentiful, affordable or tasty, but because higher profile restaurants tend to get all of the attention. Sometimes that’s a good thing, as that leaves the authenticity of a restaurant like La Nacional for the rest of us to enjoy, as we wrote about last week.

This is apparent when comparing Mario Batali’s Spanish inspired Casa Mono with the authentic and traditional Spanish cooking from La Nacional. Casa Mono obviously generated a lot of buzz before opening to immediate coverage from local food gossipers at Chowhound and eGullet, to the NY Times. Don’t get us wrong, Gothamist loved the food and thought it was worthy of the hype. But the tried and true Spanish authenticity of La Nacional turns out croquettes, paella, Spanish meatballs and a fantastic shrimp dish that are getting a loyal following virtually under the radar.

The shrimp was so flavorful and easy to make at home that we were inspired to make a version for the Gothamist Recipe.

Gothamist Recipe 2004_09_food_shrimpfinished.jpg Spanish Style Garlic Shrimp with olive oil, parsley and paprika

This dish is a staple for Gothamist at home, especially for serving as a snack for arriving guests. Since it’s so simple, the key to success for this dish lies in the details. Try and find fresh shrimp that has not been frozen or treated with the chemicals we discuss in our recipe for scallops. The other detail is in cooking the shrimp. You need to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to add to the pan. Lastly, you need to cook the shrimp only turning once, just before finishing.

The following recipe works as a hearty appetizer for two. You could add thin, sturdy pasta like bucatini and a side salad to make it a main course.

Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves two or three as an appetizer.

12 jumbo shrimp with shell on (see notes below)
one bunch parsley
bag/jar of sweet Spanish or Hungarian paprika
2 large or 3 small cloves of garlic
1 small white onion (Vidalia preferable)
1 lemon
red pepper flakes
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Crusty baguette to sop up the sauce

Estimated cost of ingredients: $16 at Fairway

Shopping for the Ingredients
Shrimp with the shell removed can be fine, but when buying small quantities like this, go for the shell on. For sautéed shrimp recipes, it’s best to get shrimp that is as dry as possible. If it’s glistening and very wet looking, it was most likely either frozen or made soggy by a preservative. Try and buy shrimp that are wild and/or fresh. Fairway, Citarella and Fresh Direct mostly note when they freeze or treat shrimp with a preservative. It’s not a tragedy to buy shrimp in this form, but finding a local source for the real thing is ideal.

Buy fresh spices. If you are like Gothamist, you may have not used your paprika for a while. Dishes like these are what fresh spices are for, so refresh your stock.

You’ll have lots of pantry leftovers from this dish for future cooking nights.

Preparing the Ingredients
Peel and roughly chop two medium or large cloves of garlic. Slice the onion into quarters. Take one quarter of the onion and chop into a small dice. Rough chop a handful of fresh parsley, or about two tablespoons. Get your paprika and red pepper flakes ready.

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Prepare the Shrimp
To take off the shrimp shells, hold the shrimp tail shell with your thumb and gently peel off the shell from the rest of the body. Leave the tail shell that you’ve kept on the shrimp for ease of eating and a nice presentation.

You now need to devein the shrimp. As you may know, shrimp can have a small vein that should be removed. It only takes a few minutes. Take a sharp paring knife and make a small vertical slice along the bottom of the shrimp. Remove the vein with the tip of your pairing knife and discard onto a nearby paper towel. Do this for all of the shrimp.

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Dry the Shrimp
The goal is to get the shrimp as dry as possible for sautéing. You want the shrimp to turn out a bit caramelized and browned, so drying them is essential.

Take two paper towels and place them on top of each other on your cutting board. Place the shrimp on the paper towels. Take another paper towel and place on top of the shrimp, gently patting dry and absorbing the moisture. If very wet, do this again with fresh paper towels.

Once they are drier, sprinkle each side with kosher salt and pepper.

Sauté the Shrimp
Coat the bottom of a heavy pan with olive oil. Be generous, this is worthy of two large glugs of oil. Set on medium heat. Bring all of your ingredients to the pan, as you will use them all rather quickly at this point.

Put in the onion. Immediately add a pinch of salt. Add three pinches of paprika and two pinches of the red pepper flakes (Gothamist adds three for more spiciness). Add garlic a minute later. Add half of your parsley right after. Shake the pan to mix the ingredients and add another pinch of salt. Add your shrimp quickly after, spread across the pan without touching. (You may need to do this in batches with larger quantities.

Do not touch the shrimp for two and a half, three minutes. Shake the pan after two minutes if you are concerned about the garlic burning. Don’t worry though, a toasty brown is fine for this dish, as we’ll strain this for the sauce later . . . just don’t burn the garlic.

Flip the shrimp. As soon as you flip them, squeeze some fresh lemon onto them, then turn off the heat. The shrimp will be mostly done, but the heat in the pan will continue to cook them.

Finish the Dish
Take out your shrimp after a minute with tongs and arrange on your plate or serving platter. Next, take a small strainer and place over a small bowl. Add about five tablespoon to 1/8 cup of water to the sauce in the pan to get it to a sauce like consistency.

Stir and pour through the strainer over the bowl. You’ll get a reddish, olive oil sauce with a deep garlic flavor. Taste, add salt and pepper if needed. Add the rest of the parsley to this and spoon over shrimp.

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Garnish plate with whole parsley leaves and lemon and serve, preferably with bread.


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