Stuffed olives (Olive All'Ascolana)

The olives in the Marche Region of Ascoli Piceno are rumored to be the best in all of Italy.  The meaty and mild tasting flesh along with the smaller than usual pit, makes them ideal to snack on.   It was the ancient Roman writer, Martial who described that olives from this region were served at every banquet both as an appetizer and at the end of the meal to cleanse the palate.   It was also rumored that Nero and his entourage were big fans.  Who could blame them?   It wasn't until the 18th century, in the Southern Marche,  that some inventive cook decided to stuff them.   What a wonderful idea.
The variety is called Tenera Ascolana and only grows in the chunky soil of Ascoli Piceno.  Today, the variety is hardly exported at all.   I like to substitute pitted, Spanish Manzanilla, readily available in almost every market around the world.  They are fairly easy to handle in the kitchen and very forgiving.   Take your time and make a bunch.   I like to keep mine in freezer bags of 10, ready to go.     Remember to fry in enough vegetable oil to cover.   Serve them hot.  You won't be able to resist. 
 If you are ever find yourself wandering through Ascoli Piceno,  be warned, leave room for plenty of Fried Olives!  Buon Appetito!

Special Note:   The traditional recipe is made with Pork, beef and chicken livers.  There is a great debate today over the use of cinnamon in the recipe.  I do not use it.   Any piece of chicken will do fine.  It's very forgiving.  You will need a food processor for this recipe.  
Ingredients:
30  queen olives, pitted, cleaned and dried.  If you are using olives that are stuffed, you will need to remove the stuffing by hand, rinse and dry.  Be careful not to tare the olive to much, but if you do, no worries, they come back together nicely when assembled.  
In a deep plate:  3 eggs beaten 
In a deep plate:  2 cups unbleached flour
In a deep plate:  2 cups breadcrumbs
You might need to adjust this some.  It's going to depend on the size of your queen olive.
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive plus one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a medium size skillet.
1/4 pound ground beef or slice of ground chuck, cut up
1/4 pound ground pork or slice of pork loin cut up
1/4 pound ground chicken or boned chicken thigh
3 tablespoons diced onion
3 tablespoons diced carrot
3 tablespoons diced celery
one tablespoon Tomato paste diluted in 2 tablespoon water 
2 tablespoons of bread crumbs for the stuffing
one egg for the stuffing
1/4 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
A pinch of Nutmeg
The zest of 1/4 of a fresh Lemon
Method:   Let me just say that this recipe just takes practice.  Be prepared for your hands to get sticky, flour everywhere.  It just comes with the territory.   
Step 1:
Place your skillet and oils on the stove and heat to medium.  Slowly slip in your meats and cook until lightly golden but cooked through.   Remove them from the pan to cool and place your vegetables in the pan.   Mix and cook until soft and fragrant.  Add the tomato paste and continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated and slightly thickened.   Turn your heat off under the pan and set aside to cool.  
Step 2:
In the processor place the contents of your skillet (meat, vegetables, oil),  and give it mix until thoroughly combined.  It will already look somewhat pasty.   Add your cheese, pinch of nutmeg, a little bit of egg (to help combine) and your lemon zest.   Give it a good mix/ pulse until pasty again. You should be able to smell the fragrant smell of lemon.  If you do not, add a bit more zest.  If it looks to wet, add some bread crumbs a tablespoon at a time.  You want it sticky but not wet.   
Step 3:  Grab an olive in one hand, some stuffing in between your fingers and attempt to place it inside the olive.  The olive will tare some, this is normal.   To help put it back together,  pass it in the dish of the flour.  Use your hand to form a ball. It just takes very little stuffing.  Just takes practice.  If the olives splits in half, discard it and start again.  After a while, you will get the hang of it. It's a messy job but very worth it.  Then, place the olive in the egg mixture, followed by the bread crumbs.    Continue with this method until you have a tray full.   Let them rest in the refrigerator some to set. 
Step 4:
You can now either begin to fry them in Vegetable oil.  Remember to use a deep enough skillet.  They must be completely submerged in hot oil.  Test the oil by sprinkling some breadcrumbs in it.  If it sizzles, gently drop some olives and fry.  Give them a light shake to move around the pan to fry evenly. 
Drain on paper towels and serve hot.  

Buon Appetito! 


Comments

Nettie Moore said…
Looks delish! Thank you for sharing! Nettie
Newlywed Cook said…
Heavenly! I have to make this for my dad when we are in Provence this summer using some real farmer's market olives! YUM!
You can truly stuff them with anything. Thanks!
Dina Felicetti said…
Thank you for stopping by The Weekend Social over at Kitchen Dreaming. We have pinned your post to http://www.pinterest.com/rjeagle12/theweekendsocial-link-parties/ . We hope to see you again next week.

Dina@KitchenDreaming.com
Ricki M said…
These look great. I'm a big fan of fried mushrooms but I've never had them stuffed and fried. Thanks for sharing at The Weekend Social. Looking forward to seeing what you have for us next week
@Ricki,
You should read the recipes you allow to be shared and posted to your page. The word "Olive" is in the the title here. These are fried, stuffed Olives and have nothing to do with mushrooms. lol Surely, this is an oversight. Thank you for your comment. Barbara @sunday at the giacometti's
Wow, this does seem like a labor of love! Can;t I just come to your house to try yours? :) ~ David
Ricki M said…
Thank you so much for your reply. I'm generally fairly good at reading the things posted to my site, and I am a fan of olives, however as a vegetarian, I would have to replace the beef, pork and chicken with mushrooms. I apologize for the confusion in my previous comment.
Thank you Ricki,
Let me suggest, if you are a vegetarian, but eat fish, you can easily use a piece of cooked fish, or just stuff it with a vegetable that does not have a high water content. That might be a bit tricky, but you can do it.
I understand completely and my comment was not meant to be offensive at all. So sweet of you to invite me and look forward to coming back. Thanks. Barbara, Sunday at the Giacometti's
Ronda Eagle said…
Hi Barbara, I was stopping by to let you know that your recipe was most viewed this week at The Weekend Social on Kitchen Dreaming and will be featured at our next party.
QB said…
Nice one! I am ascolana and the best method of preparing the olives is to peel them away from the stone with a small sharp knife - in one long piece - much like you would peel an apple in a circular movement. Much easier to wrap this around the mixture than trying to stuff into a tiny hole! :)

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