A la plancha is a style of cooking popular in Spain that uses high heat and a flat cooktop (like a griddle) to impart a slightly smoky flavor. Gambas a la plancha, or pan-seared shrimp, is traditionally served with the heads on and in their shells. Ours are halfway there so you’ll still be able to get your fingers a little messy. Thank goodness for napkins!
- 1 pound spot shrimp, thawed and in their shells, roe reserved for another use
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
- Crusty bread for serving
Rinse the shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. (For easier eating, use a pair of scissors to cut through the shell along the outer edge of the shrimp, following the curve until you reach the tail.) In a bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. In a small bowl, combine the remaining oil with the garlic, paprika, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the shrimp and cook, turning occasionally, until the shells are pink and lightly charred in spots, 4 to 5 minutes.
Finish and Serve
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the paprika oil and butter, tossing until evenly coated. Garnish with parsley and serve with crusty bread and lots of napkins.
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Pair it Up
Gambas a la plancha, a favorite at tapas restaurants, is traditionally served with a glass of chilled fino sherry. A slightly acidic albariño or vinho verde is also a great option.
Spice it Up
Smoked paprika comes in two types–sweet and hot–and is found in specialty markets and online. Unsmoked sweet paprika is widely available and a perfect substitute.
Change it Up
Save the shells! Even though the shrimp has been cooked, their shells will still add lots of flavor to a seafood stock.
Lighten it Up
Butter adds a silky sweet finish to the sauce, but you can omit it or use the same amount of olive oil.
Know Your Cook
Culinary Director Grace Parisi is a cook, writer and cookbook author. Formerly the Senior Test Kitchen Editor at Food & Wine Magazine and Executive Food Director at TimeInc Books, her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Health, O Magazine, Epicurious, Fitness, Today, Serious Eats, Martha Stewart, and many more. She’s the author of more than 6 books, among them The Portlandia Cookbook and Get Saucy, which was nominated for a James Beard award for Best Single Subject Cookbook.