I had to take some appetizers to a party so decided to make mini seafood potpies. I love potpies but we usually make them with chicken. I thought seafood would make a nice change. You could do this with shrimp only or crab only. Or you can add lobster or scallops for more varied seafood. Just make sure your combination of seafood totals half a pound. If you like, you can double the filling recipe to make one deep dish potpie.
Gambas al Ajillo or Garlic Shrimp is one of the best Spanish tapas ever! It’s a favorite all over Spain and is served in homes and tapas bars in practically every city in the country. It’s very easy to make and is sometimes cooked and/or served in a shallow terracotta or clay pot called a cazuela.
I originally learned to make gambas many years ago from my Spanish chef friend, Mari. Since then, I’ve tweaked what he taught me to come up with my own version. For one thing, in Spain gambas are traditionally cooked in plain olive oil but I like to use a blend of half olive oil and half butter. I find that the butter imparts a great flavor to this dish. It may not be very traditional, but it works for me! Mari also slices his garlic cloves in thin slices, but I prefer to mince my garlic. Some people add a little Spanish sweet paprika or pimentón to their gambas. I don’t usually do this (Mari didn’t), but you can if you want to. Also, more often than not, I make this dish without the alcohol at all and it turns out just fine.
Don’t forget the oh-so-important step of serving slices of fresh bread along with your gambas for sopping up the sauce! In my experience, the shrimp disappear fast whenever I make this dish, but they leave behind a bowl of garlicky sauce that is wonderful for dunking bread in. It’s a great way to extend the enjoyment of eating gambas even after the shrimp are all gone.
GAMBAS AL AJILLO
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup butter
10-14 large cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (increase to ½ tsp. if you want it spicier)
½ tsp. salt, or to taste
3 Tbsp. minced parsley
3 Tbsp. brandy or cognac or dry sherry (optional)
french baguette bread, sliced
Heat olive oil and butter together over medium heat in a sauté pan.
Sauté garlic and crushed red pepper until garlic is cooked but still tender. Don’t let the garlic brown.
Toss in the shrimp and salt, and sauté just until shrimp turns pink.
Stir in parsley and brandy, if using. At this point, Chef Mari would shake the pan, tilting it slightly so the alcohol would catch fire. You can skip that step. Or not. Totally up to you.
Transfer to a shallow serving bowl or cazuela.
Serve immediately with slices of french bread for soaking up the sauce.
This is an old recipe of my Mom’s. She made it all the time for get-togethers or when we were expecting company. It’s very addictive and you’ll find yourself heading back to the appetizer table again and again for just a little bit more.
It always reminds me of my mother-in-law whom I miss terribly. She absolutely loved this mousse! When the party was over, you just knew any leftover shrimp mousse was hers. She would spread it on bread and eat shrimp mousse sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and a snack the next day. I have to say, I picked up that habit from her and on the rare occasion that we actually have leftover shrimp mousse, I find myself making a shrimp mousse sandwich for lunch or a snack.
1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp. cold water
1 box (8 ozs.) cream cheese
1 can Campbells cream of celery soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 lb. cooked small shrimp, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
In a small bowl, dissolve the Knox gelatin in 2 tbsp. cold water and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream cheese and celery soup over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth.
Remove saucepan from heat, add in the gelatin, and stir until well-blended.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Pour into a mold and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until firm.
Unmold and serve with crackers.
NOTE: You can easily turn this into “Crab Mousse” by substituting 1 pound crabmeat for the shrimp. I’ve also made it into “Seafood Mousse” by making it with ½ lb. shrimp and ½ lb. crab.
I got the inspiration to make these appetizers from the Pillsbury website. My family has been making crab salad for years, though we always serve it in a bowl with crackers on the side for an appetizer. When I saw the Pillsbury recipe, I thought how perfect it would be to wrap our family’s crab salad in crescent roll dough instead of serving it our usual way with crackers. It turned out great!
CRAB SALAD CRESCENT APPETIZERS
1 pkg. imitation crab meat, chopped
⅓ cup mayonnaise
½ pkg. (4 ozs.) cream cheese, softened (optional)
1 large shallot, finely minced (can substitute ¼ small onion)
1 stalk green onion, green and white part, finely chopped
½ tsp. worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 can Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Mix imitation crab, mayonnaise, cream cheese, shallot, green onion, worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper together in a bowl until well combined.
Unroll dough on work surface and pinch seams to seal.
Cut into 6 rows by 4 rows to make 24 squares.
Spoon about 1 teaspoon crab salad onto center of square.
Pull opposite corners on each side up over filling and let points meet in center.