This simple but intensely flavorful dish combines two classic Spanish tapas. The first is shrimp, head and shells intact, roasted on a bed of hot salt on a plancha. The second is camarones al ajillo, garlic shrimp sizzled in olive oil in a cazuela (shallow clay dish). While not strictly traditional, this dish combines the best of both recipes — and fairly bursts with Spanish flavors thanks to the flavor-boosting powers of searing hot metal.
Shrimp a La Plancha
• 1 pound extra-large shrimp, shelled, split and deveined
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Spanish), plus 2 to 3 tablespoons for greasing
• 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
• 2 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
• 1 teaspoon pimentón (optional)
• Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons brandy or sherry (optional)
• Lemon wedges, for serving
Place the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon parsley, the garlic, pimentón (if using) and salt and pepper; toss to mix. Let marinate for 10 minutes while you heat the griddle.
Heat your griddle to high heat (500 degrees). If using a gas-fired griddle, set it to high. If using a free-standing griddle, the flat side of a grill pan or a large cast-iron skillet, heat it on your stove over high heat or over a direct fire on your grill. To check the temperature, shake a few drops of water onto it. When properly heated, the water will evaporate in 1 to 2 seconds. Drizzle the griddle with olive oil (start with 2 tablespoons, adding more as needed) and spread the oil around with a spatula.
When ready to cook, spoon the shrimp onto the griddle in a single layer and cook until browned underneath, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
If using the brandy or sherry, carefully pour it over the shrimp and cook until evaporated. For high drama, touch a lit long fireplace match or butane match to it to flambée it.
Transfer the shrimp to a platter or plates and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.
Total time: 30 minutes, makes 4 appetizer servings, 2 to 3 entree servings.