Why?, I thought, Why FRY olives?? They are already this perfect, unique little thing. There are other things to fry, other things that warrant transformation, things that melt or that you want to make crispy, then maybe dip. It wasn’t my curiosity that was piqued when I saw fried olives in magazines here and there. It was that they were kind of pretty. That was appealing. Also appealing, eventually: fried. So I bought pitted olives, snacked on a dozen just as they were, perfectly fine as usual, hedged my bets by crumbling crispy herbs into my breading and fried away. And they did look pretty, in person, too. I let them cool, then ate a couple and understood. They were…I’d admit…awesome. I was bummed for a second to be wrong, to have waited so long, to not have thought of this first. It’s not that fried olives are better than the olives are ten minutes prior, it’s that they are another thing entirely. And briny fried olives, though not something to replace or be compared with briny, not-fried olives, are really, really good. Do bother to fry olives when you have someone to spoil or a party to host, the things that would warrant it.
*Rosemary leaves are hardy and similar herbs once fried will also be easiest to crush finely between your fingers. Larger, delicate herbs like basil fry well too, but I find they them harder to crush finely. Still, use your favourites if you wish. These olives do not need to be served warm but they don’t keep well. To enjoy a dry, crunchy exterior, eat within 3 hours of frying them and keep them spread out in a single layer until ready to serve. If you’re serving the leek chips within this issue too, you can use the same oil, but fry the olives first since the leeks will strongly perfume the oil.
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
2-4 sprigs rosemary*, washed and well-dried
75 g pitted olives, rinsed and patted dry
1/3 c flour
1/3 c fine breadcrumbs
In a deep, heavy bottomed pot or a large skillet, pour 1 inch of oil and heat to 350-375F degrees.
Meanwhile, set up 3 wide, shallow bowls close to the stovetop. Add the flour to one, the egg to another, whisking it in the bowl with a fork, and the breadcrumbs to the last. Season the breadcrumbs with salt. Line a large plate or sheet pan with a paper towels.
Fry the rosemary sprigs in the oil and remove with a slotted spoon when the leaves start to turn golden, about 30-60 seconds. Place on paper towels to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, check that the leaves are crispy and that they shatter when folded. If not, fry for 30 seconds more, remove, cool and crush the leaves into the breadcrumbs, discarding the stalks.
Coat the olives with a dusting of flour, shake off any excess and add them to the egg. Make sure to cover the olives with egg completely before transferring them to the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs onto the olives and coat them generously.
Add the olives carefully to the hot oil–start out by adding just a few and work in small, safe batches. Turn them gently with a slotted spoon and remove when golden. Transfer using a slotted spoon to the paper towel-lined plate or tray. Let cool at least slightly and serve.