I was first introduced to stuffed olives during our visit to the region of Le Marche. Inspired to travel to there by Valerie and Bryan from 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree and 2 Italy We Moved, we spent four days in Ascoli Piceno, the small city that they called home at that time.
Le Marche is famous for its large, mild green olives and you won’t have to look very far to find them being sold. Stuffed with meat and deep fried, this is one snack that will win you over. My first taste was at a stand on the Piazza Arringo in the center of town. Walking through the piazza I spotted fried olives tucked into paper cones being sold from a cart. I made my purchase and wondered if we’d be able to finish all of them. Well, it didn’t take but a few minutes for them to disappear-crispy coating, savory meat filling and a flavorful olive. Once home I knew I had to recreate them and this recipe comes from Joyce Goldstein’s book Enoteca.
Le Olive Ascolane
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 pound lean ground beef or veal
1/4 pound lean pork
1/4 ground chicken or turkey
1/2 cup meat or chicken stock
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
80 large green olives
1 cup flour
1 cup dried bread crumbs
olive oil for deep frying
Let me begin by saying that the first thing that I did was seek out large green olives that were already pitted. The easiest thing to do is to buy ones that are already stuffed (I purchased ones stuffed with pimentos), remove the filling and then soak them in water for about an hour.
To make the filling heat 2 tablespoons oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until tender-8-10 minutes. Add meats and saute, breaking with fork until they start to color, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and cook until most of it is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to food processor and pulse until evenly ground. Add eggs, cheese, nutmeg and process until a smooth paste forms.
Spoon the filling into a pastry bag with a small plain tip and fill the pitted olives. You can prepare this up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate. I found that it was easier to make a slit in the side of each olive and with a small spoon, tuck the filling into the olive and press to close. Once you coat the olives, you won’t even notice that you’ve cut into it. To fry the olives, spread flour in one bowl, beat eggs into another and bread crumbs into the last one. Dip olives first in flour, then in eggs and finally in bread crumbs (at this point you can cover and refrigerate for up to a day).
Pour oil into a heavy heated sauce pan to a depth of 2-3 inches and heat to 350 degrees. It’s really important that your oil is hot enough-if not, whatever you are frying will be greasy. Working in batches, carefully drop olives into oil and fry for about 4 minutes, until golden. Using a slotted spoon remove and drain on paper towels. I transfered them to a warm oven and held them there for about 15 minutes until my guests arrived.