Crispy Sausage-Stuffed Olives
This appetizer packs a lot of southern Italian attitude in every bite. I love to catch my guests off guard with a flavor they don't expect. The idea is to wake up their palates with some big tastes and textures. This dish does just that.
1 sweet fresh Italian sausage, about 1/4 pound, casing removed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
12 ounces canned or jarred large pitted green olives
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup fine dried bread crumbs
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
peanut oil for deep-frying
In a bowl, combine the sausage meat, garlic, and red pepper flakes, if using, and mix to distribute the ingredients evenly. Drain the olives and rinse them under running cold water. Stuff each of the olives with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of the sausage mixture.
Spread the flour on a dinner plate. Break the egg into a shallow bowl and beat lightly. Spread the bread crumbs on another dinner plate. Moisten the bread crumbs with the olive oil, and stir to distribute the oil evenly. One at a time, roll the olives in the flour, coating them evenly and shaking off the excess. Then dip them in the egg, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Finally, coat the olives evenly with the bread crumbs. As each olive is finished, place it on a tray. Cover and refrigerate the olives for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours before frying.
Pour the peanut oil to a depth of at least 3 inches into a deep fryer or a heavy, 8-inch-deep stockpot and heat to 375 degrees. Working in batches, add the olives to the hot oil and fry until golden brown and the sausage stuffing is cooked through, about 3 minutes. The olives will bubble vigorously until they are nearly done, so be careful to avoid splatters. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
Arrange the olives in a ceramic dish. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Look for large, pitted green olives for this dish. They come packed in cans and jars, or buy them loose from a local deli. If you can only find already-stuffed olives -- with pimentos, onions, anchovies, almonds -- you can just remove the stuffing.