I flew in Saturday evening from Copenhagen and was whisked away (sorry, I had to) by my boyfriend, Zack, to D.C. for the night.
I was starting to regret my choice of letting him pick the restaurant we were going to when he mentioned pre-gaming dinner with Burger King, but he eased any worry by finally telling me we were going to Jaleo.
I’ve been obsessed with the famed chef José Andrés since eating at Oyamel, so I’ve been dying to try Jaleo due to their upscale take on Spanish tapas and the like. It has the coolest decor; some of the larger tables even have foosball under the glass!
I started with the London Dry: a gin and tonic infused with white pepper, grapefruit, mint, and lemon. Fresh, light, and perfect for summer.
We commenced the meal with fried bacon wrapped dates, yes heaven does exist, and they came out in seriously 30 seconds. The piping hot golden nuggets were plated on top of an apple mustard sauce that perfectly cut the richness of the dish.
Next came one of my favorite things I had in Spain, flauta bread brushed with tomato, and laden with incredible acorn-fed Ibérico ham.
Manchego and apples compressed in muscatel wine.
Grilled hanger steak draped with mustard sauce and Valdeón blue cheese.
Traditional ‘paella’ of toasted pasta with shrimp and calamari. The dollop of garlic aioli in the center gets stirred into the saffron soaked noodles. Insanely good.
And my absolute favorite: gambas al ajillo, or shrimp and garlic. You may wonder how something with such a simple name could be so good, and I thought the same thing until I took my first bite. Your mouth explodes with the flavors of sweet tomato, spicy chile, sour lemon, and salty shrimp.
I loved this dish so much that I decided to put my own spin on it and make it at home so you guys can try it without venturing into the awful D.C. traffic. You’re welcome.
Begin by boiling a box of pasta (I used bucatini) according to the directions on the package and set it aside.
Slice a few cloves of garlic and fry them over medium heat in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil with a sprinkle of chile flakes. This will start the base of your brava sauce.
Add in 2 tablespoons of sugar, and let cook until the sugar melts.
Next, add in 2 tablespoons of Sherry vinegar and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
Pour in 2 pounds of pureed tomatoes, and let simmer until sauce becomes super thick.
The sauce looks like this when a lot of the water has evaporated and you’re ready to move on the next step.
Next, slice a few more cloves of garlic, and toss them into hot oil. Tip in your shrimp, and sauté until they begin to turn pink.
Pour in 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 5 tablespoons of brandy, and 1/2 cup of the brava sauce.
When the shrimp is cooked and the flavors are gloriously melted together remove from the heat and stir in your pasta. Toss, toss, toss until the noodles become one with the sauce.
Drizzle with a little EVOO, sprinkle with parmesan and enjoy, salud!
Gambas al Aljillo, recipe adapted from Jetset Times, serves 6
1 pound Shrimp White 31/35 peeled and deveined, or your preferred size
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
5 tablespoons of brandy
4 tablespoons lemon Juice
½ cup Brava sauce (Recipe Below)
Kosher salt to taste
Directions: Thinly slice the garlic cloves with a knife and set aside. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to fry. Turn the heat up to high and add the shrimp. When the shrimp starts to change color, add the brandy, lemon juice and brava sauce and stir to combine. Stir in your pasta, and toss until noodles are completely coated with sauce, Remove from the heat, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve with parmesan.
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 ounce Whole Garlic Peeled and Sliced
1 teaspoon chile flakes, or more depending on how spicy you want it
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
2 pounds Whole Canned Tomatoes (Pureed)
Kosher Salt to taste
Directions: In a medium size pot over medium heat add the oil, garlic and chile and sauté slowly until they start to brown. Add the sugar and stir until it melts. Add the vinegar and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the tomato puree and simmer until almost dry.