AS the tasting panel discussed one of the richer white Riojas, the 1987 López de Heredia Tondonia reserve, Eric Asimov said, "shrimp in garlic sauce." A fine idea. Then, Mani Dawes, an owner of Tía Pol, and I considered a white gazpacho, made with ground blanched almonds and serious amounts of garlic and garnished with green grapes.
I thought either style of Rioja - crisp and refreshing or round and lush - would welcome the creaminess of the soup and fruitiness of the grapes as well as they might complement shrimp zapped with garlic.
For possible recipes, I turned to a new cookbook, "La Cocina de Mamá: The Great Home Cooking of Spain," by the Spanish food expert Penelope Cases (Broadway Books, $29.95). I found not only one for the white gazpacho, garnished unconventionally with shrimp, and another for the classic garlic shrimp tapas, but also recipes for hake in garlic sauce, Catalan poached fish and potatoes with creamy aioli sauce, and chicken in a garlic and wine sauce.
What made the recipe for shrimp with garlic especially alluring was that it was finished with a splash of amontillado sherry, adding a whiff of nuttiness, and did not call for chilies. The recipe is attributed to Mother Pepa, who lives in Jerez de la Frontera. That explains the sherry.
Mother Pepa's Garlic Shrimp
Adapted from "La Cocina de Mamá: The Great Home Cooking of Spain" by Penelope Casas
Time: 30 minutes
¾ pound small or medium shrimp, shelled
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons amontillado sherry
Crusty bread for dipping.
1. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and let sit for 10 minutes. In a shallow casserole, preferably earthenware, heat oil with garlic and parsley until garlic begins to sizzle.
2. Add shrimp and cook over medium heat, stirring and turning shrimp until they are opaque. Add sherry and salt to taste and cook another minute or two, until sherry evaporates and sauce thickens slightly. Serve immediately, with toothpicks or small forks and bread for sopping up sauce.
Yield: 4 servings.