Have you had fried olives? I ask because Amamda Hesser writes in The Essential New York Times Cookbook "If you've never had a fried olive, do not let another day pass without tasting one." And, I couldn't agree more. I had enjoyed fried olives at restaurants, but when I saw this in the Hors D'Oeuvres chapter of TENYTC, I knew it was time to make them at home. In each chapter of that book, the recipes are listed chronologically according to when they appeared in the newspaper. I was charmed by the Hors D'Oeuvres chapter from the earliest entries. The salted and deviled almonds from 1897 and eggs suffragette from 1909 made me want to start planning a cocktail party. By the time I got to the fried olives from 2004, I was ready to start cooking and then mix some drinks. Having to fry something for a party never sounds like fun, but these crispy, little orbs hold up well for a few hours. You can do the frying in advance, and then re-warm the fried olives in the oven. There are suggestions for serving them with wedges of lemon, fennel slices, radishes, or a dusting of parmesan cheese. I liked the idea of a parmesan garnish and added some chopped parsley as well.
At our two grocery stores that I visit every week, and often several times a week, we have really good selections of olives. I can buy various types of olives stuffed with all kinds of ingredients, but since I was going to the trouble of breading and frying them, I decided to buy plain olives and stuff them myself. I chopped marcona almonds and piquillo peppers into thin strips and stuffed pieces of both into each olive. Other options might have included blue cheese, anchovies, other nuts, pickled vegetables, spicy chiles, or whatever sounds good in an olive. The stuffed olives were breaded by rolling them in flour, dunking them in egg, and then coating them with breadcrumbs. You can bread the olives in advance and refrigerate them until you're ready to begin frying. I heated olive oil in a saucepan and fried four or five olives at a time. They become golden in a minute or less and should then be drained on a paper towel-lined sheet pan.
Crispy and salty goes perfectly with bubbly. Champagne would have been an obvious choice, but instead, I poured a glass of sparkling, hard cider and it was a great match. The warm, crunchy-coated olives disappear quickly, so if you're serving a crowd, make more than you think you'll need.