With olives.

There’s something on my mind: I’ve found (in real-life and through comments) that a lot of people are self-prescribed haters of certain foods—and I just don’t get it. Putting foods on a “hate to eat” list is so limiting.  Think of all the deliciousness that you may be keeping from yourself! I’ve had many experiences when I tried a food that I disliked, one that was prepared by a fabulous cook or chef, and promptly threw it into the category of favorite foods.  Beets, poached eggs, pate, fennel—they were all on my dislike list at one point or another and, even though I still rarely eat beets (by choice) and pate (by crying myself to sleep some nights because I can’t afford to eat pate), they don’t sit on a list anymore.  I don’t have the list anymore; set fire to it a while ago.  It’s very freeing.

Olives were on that list right up until the burning of it.  I never liked olives; no, I hated olives.  Olives aren’t an odd thing to dislike, Harold McGee calls the olive fruit “highly unpalatable” and notes that we really only like to eat them when cured.  But I didn’t want to eat them at all.  Didn’t want them near my vodka.  Didn’t want to smell them as I passed by the olive bar at the market.  I also, however, hadn’t tried one in years.  Not a smart move for a supposed “foodie.”

Well, I’m happy to say that I tried olives and liked them.  I did it out of desperation.  I was in a slump this winter and needed a new and exciting recipe.  I found one in Saveur magazine, a recipe for sea bass baked in parchment with keilbasa, olives, and fennel.  It wasn’t my favorite recipe, but the best part about it was the olives.  Baked in the oven until soft and oozing their brine, olives are meltingly, disarmingly delicious.  I’m still not a fan of eating olives out of hand, except maybe for nicoise, but I love to cook with olives.

This in particular is my newest favorite olive recipe.  You roast a cut-up chicken with lots of rosemary, thyme, and pancetta, until golden brown, then throw in some black olives and roast until the olives are tender, the chicken browned, and the pancetta crispy.  Because you are using olives, which have such an intense, briny taste, you can go crazy with the herbs.  Don’t hold back on the rosemary or thyme—and use fresh.  The sweetly woody aroma of the herbs are a perfect match for olives; and the roasted garlic is a perfect match for anything.  We had this on top of pureed cauliflower with a clove of the roasted garlic mashed up into the puree, and it was just heaven. With olives.

Chicken with Pancetta and Olives

serves 2-3

adapted from Gourmet, January 2009

  • 1 chicken (about 3 pounds), backbones cut out and each chicken cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
  • scant 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • pinch hot red-pepper flakes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved if large
  • 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices pancetta, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 12 oil-cured black olives
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • more water, to thin, if needed

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.  Toss chicken with oil, thyme, rosemary, sea salt, red-pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon pepper, rubbing mixture into chicken.

Arrange chicken, skin side up, in 1 layer in a 17-by 11-inch 4-sided sheet pan. Scatter garlic and pancetta on top and roast until chicken begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Drizzle wine over chicken and roast 8 minutes more. Scatter olives over chicken and roast until skin is golden brown and chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, add 1/4 cup water and cauliflower.  Cover and cook over medium heat until cauliflower is very tender.  Add butter and one small (or one half large) clove of the roasted garlic and puree with a stick blender or in a stand blender until very smooth.

Serve chicken on top of a mound of cauliflower.

17 thoughts on “With olives.”

    1. Couldn’t hurt to try, and since the olives are not cut up, Matt can just eat around them if he wants (though I don’t think he will!)

  1. i don’t get the food-hating, either. if i dislike a certain food, i eat it until i like it. i even got my fiance, a self-proclaimed mushroom-hater of the worst kind, eating mushrooms. my next challenge: getting him to eat fish.

    i’m glad you’re warming up to olives. do you like them on your pizza?

  2. Lamb shank slow-cooked with tomatoes and olives. Mmmnnnn. My kids love olives too, but I confess I didn’t start eating them much until antipasti became a regular part of the evening meal. Also, there’s a huge difference in quality btwn good import olives and what you get at most markets. Bottom line: Pay the extra $.

  3. YAY for olives…always loved them – always will!

    I’m glad your tastes change. Each year I revisit foods I do not like and I find that my tastes have changed and broadened. Everyone should try, say…liver again!

    In the meantime, we can sink into your chicken & olives dish.

  4. Steve “doesn’t like” olives, but I’m going to cook a dish like this with them anyway. Same with artichokes.

    As for me, I was just talking to someone about this yesterday. I ascribe to that “man who ate everything” theory of trying everything 8 to 10 times before coming to a conclusion. And you know what? I just had my 7th piece of goat cheese the other day and FINALLY kind of liked it. 😀 Not to mention that lamb dish I posted last week that finally made me like lamb again. I loved it actually. :D!!

  5. I’m kind of the opposite: I cure my own olives, which is not so hard here in California, where olive trees are everywhere. I eat them constantly…

    And you should totally stop crying yourself to sleep about it and learn how to make a pate! They are SUPER cheap to make when you know how, as many of the best are made with liver, which can be had for $1 a pound, along with cheap cuts of meat (which are then ground), spices, and fatback, which is also cheap. Plus, a well-made pate will last a month in the fridge…

    1. Ok, I’ve been publicly shamed. I’ll admit it, I have a great charcuterie book, an awesome, fantastic, can-never-say-enough-good-about-them butcher, and more than enough time to make pate. I need to just do it. Any tips? 😀

  6. I’m glad you’ve come over to the olive side. Olives are such a great ingredient. And they’re not hard to love.
    When I used to talk to high school classes about what it’s like to be a food writer, one thing I would always tell them is that: “Remember, just because you tried something once and hated it, doesn’t mean you’ll hate it forever. Our tastes in fashion, music, hairstyles, and movies change. So does our taste in food.” 😉

  7. you sound like my father – he HATES olives and is like a 5 year old when we ask him to try them. i’m glad you’ve come around. cooking w/ olives is the best b/c the flavor just becomes different when they are warmed. in a post we did a looong time ago, we actually skewered some olives and grilled them. changed the flavor completely. i actually can’t imagine my life w/o olives. in fact, that’s prob. why i’m obsessed w/ dirty martinis!

  8. You know, I used to have many, many foods I wouldn’t eat, and I’m still known as a picky eater. Lately though, my will-not-eat list has more to do with processed foods. If it’s just whole foods, I don’t eat much meat, but otherwise I think pretty much everything is welcome on my plate. Your pureed cauliflower with roasted garlic sounds fantastic with roasted chicken.

  9. I saw your comment on Ruhlman’s patest post and had to race over here to tell you I ADORE Everyone Eats well in Belgium. I bought it used in a bookshop in Concord, MA on a lark one day (I’m a cooking teacher and always looking for new cuisines and ideas) and it has been a favourite ever since. My fridge is never without some Belgian ale, just in case…I tell people about the it all the time. Please, do tell her she wrote a lovely book.
    Adding you to my feed reader as well. Thank you.

  10. I’d start with a rustic (meaning not too fancy, with more room for error) country pate, either French or Italian style. Look at recipes in Ruhlman and Polcyn’s “Charcuterie,” in Jane Grigson’s “French Pork Cookery,” or Victoria Wise’s “American Charcuterie.”

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