Fried Olives may just be my new love language!
As I think about this year’s Super Bowl, (which is actually quite the huge food holiday – second only to Thanksgiving!), I wanted an appetizer that was a little more elegant, but SUPER EASY: and nothing makes my eyes light up more than a charcuterie board. I love sampling different types of meats and cheeses. But what could I do that would dress things up a little bit? All at once, I remembered the fried olives that my friend serves at his local Italian restaurant, and thought, “How hard could they be?” The answer is: “Not hard, at all!” And totally worth doing.
The most important tip I can offer is this: use the very best, most flavorful olive – a type that you love. If you use olives that are inferior, just to use them up, (as someone I know who’s writing this did on her first batch) you’ll get what you put in. Use lovely, delicious olives, and BOOM: what you’ll get will be over-the-top great. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as they say, and that especially holds true in cooking. The secret to being a great cook is to obtain great ingredients, and prepare them simply, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. If you have a Whole Foods grocery store or another store that happens to have an olive bar, you might want to check out their selection, rather than buying a jarred olive off the shelf.
I used regular colossal pitted olives, but I also think this would be good with bleu cheese stuffed olives, for all you bleu cheese lovers out there. The frying process will soften the cheese, and you’ll get more of its flavor coming through. Another favorite large olive of mine is the Castlevetrano olives that I discovered through Mezzetta. They are large, and almost lime green in color, and have pits. But if all your guests are made aware that the olives have pits, they were my very favorite, in flavor, and texture! They have a buttery taste and a firmer texture than most olives, and I absolutely love them!
To spice things up a bit, I added one of my favorite spices to the coating, smoked paprika. I loved that little smoky flavor it added. But if you like heat, you could certainly add some smoked ground chipotle chili powder, which would add another dimension.
A word of warning for the eager eaters among us: again, learn from my mistakes. These babies get super hot on the interior, so you might want to give them a minute or two to cool off before you eat them.
I served these with prosciutto and Manchego cheese. Prosciutto is Italian, and Manchego is Spanish. I kept things pretty spare. But you can go as hog-wild as you like on your charcuterie board. Charcuterie is a French term, but mix things up all you like. If you wanted to call it tapas, just buy a serrano ham, and serve a Spanish wine. If you want to call it antipasto, then buy a Pecorino Romano, and serve it with a lovely Italian wine. Obviously, you can add as many other cheeses or dried meats to your charcuterie board as you like! Even add in nice baguette, sliced thin, or some mustards or chutneys that are your personal favorites.
Here’s how you make the olives:
Fried Olives with Smoked Paprika for a Charcuterie Board
1 cup canola oil
20 large or colossal olives: your favorite variety or varieties
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 beaten eggs
3/4 cup panko/bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound manchego cheese, cubed
1/2 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced
Heat canola oil to 350 degrees F. (Drop a very small piece of bread crumb into the oil if it starts to sizzle the oil is hot enough.)
Drain the olives.
Mix flour, garlic powder and smoked paprika powder together and place in a shallow dish. Pour eggs into another dish, and Panko/bread crumbs with ground black pepper into a third.
Roll the olives in the flour, then roll them in the beaten egg and finally roll them in the bread crumbs. Set on a plate to give the breading a chance to dry and form a crust while the oil heats.
When oil is hot, put half the olives into it, being careful not to drop them and splatter hot oil. Fry until golden brown, then remove and drain on paper towels. Be sure to tip the oil out of the center of the olive. Serve on a platter with Manchego cheese cubes and slices of prosciutto.