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An Olive in Every Pot

September 09, 1993

With their intense flavors, olives can be touchy to cook with. Too often, people use them only as one-note flavor accents--much like capers. But cook a couple of these recipes and see the variety of effects that are possible.

In the Minorcan-style duck, the bitterness of the green olives--mellowed through long cooking--cuts the bird's fatty richness. A more traditional Mediterranean combination of black olives, tomatoes and fresh herbs adds pungency to a veal stew.

Though the cauliflower and zucchini salads may sound similar, a close look shows vast differences. In the first case, black olives are combined with a gutsy combination of anchovies and capers to create an antipasto that fairly shouts. In the second, a fine note of dill mixed with lemon, sharp cheese and mild hard-cooked egg plays up the sweetness in simply cooked zucchini.

Finally, the black olive puree has an intriguing lemon flavor--despite the fact no lemon is used. Because the flavor is so different, it would be wonderful as part of an appetizer assortment that also features the slightly sour green olives that preceed it.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 16, 1993 Home Edition Food Part H Page 41 Column 6 Food Desk 2 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Olive Recipe--If you tried and loved the recipe for Minorcan-style duck with green olives in last week's article, "An Olive in Every Pot," thank cookbook author Paula Wolfert, who went uncredited for the recipe in the paper. The recipe came to Wolfert through Eliane Comelade-Thibaut, author of "La Cuisine Catalane," and was printed in the United States in "Paula Wolfert's World of Food" (Harper & Row: 1988).

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This is one of those dishes that even the jaded palates in The Times Test Kitchen can't resist. When added to the cooking liquid and brought to a boil, the olives thicken the sauce and flavor it spectacularly. The recipe, from Carlo Middione's "The Food of Southern Italy" (William Morrow: 1987), is adapted from a Minorcan specialty that uses olives from that island. Those aren't easy to get here in Southern California, so Middione suggests using Greek Nafplion olives for their slight tartness. Barring that, he says any light, small, firm, cracked green olive "with character" will work. The only olive he doesn't advise is the Spanish olive, Manzanilla.

MINORCAN-STYLE

DUCK WITH

GREEN OLIVES

1 1/4 cups finely chopped onions

1 head garlic, roasted, halved crosswise

1 large stalk celery, chopped

2 bay leaves, crumbled

2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 vanilla bean, chopped

1 (5-pound) duckling, fresh or thawed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped, peeled, seeded tomatoes

3 tablespoons dry Marsala, Sherry or Madeira

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 cloves

8 large shallots

1 1/2 cups small light-green cracked olives

Combine onions, garlic, celery, bay leaves, parsley, salt, paprika, white pepper and vanilla bean. Mix well.

Empty cavity of duck. Reserve giblets for another use. Cut off wings at second joint. Roughly chop wings and neck. Set aside. Remove loose fat from cavity, neck and tail. Cut out fat under wings. Rinse duck and pat dry.

Stuff duck and sew up opening. Truss duck to keep shape. Refrigerate uncovered until 1 hour before cooking.

With tines of fork pierce duck skin every inch. With small paring knife, make deep slits in thick, fatty areas. Place duck in wide skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Brown duck all over in expressed fat and oil. Transfer, breast-side-up, to 5- to 6-quart casserole, either earthenware or enameled cast-iron.

Brown wings and neck bones in medium skillet. Then add to casserole. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet, raise heat and add tomatoes. Mash tomatoes and saute until lightly scorched (to enhance flavor and sweetness). Scrape tomatoes and brown bits into casserole. Quickly deglaze skillet with Marsala and white wine. Add to casserole. Add cloves and shallots.

Cover casserole with circle of parchment paper or foil and tight-fitting lid. (Or earthenware dish filled with cold water that fits snugly over casserole.) Cook over low heat 2 1/4 hours, or about 25 minutes per pound of stuffed duck. Do not raise temperature.

Let duck stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, strain cooking juices, pressing duck gently to extract juices. Skim off fat. Then reduce juices to 1 cup in saucepan over medium heat. Cut duck into quarters. Discard backbone, wings and stuffing. Set in cool place. Cover pan juices. Blanch and pit olives. Duck can be made several hours ahead of time to this point.

In saucepan combine juices and olives. Bring to boil. Then simmer to blend flavors and thicken sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cover and keep warm. Rub duck skin with remaining olive oil or rendered duck fat. Place duck under broiler to reheat thoroughly and crisp skin. Place duck in warmed serving dish. Pour sauce over. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

Note : Olives need to be blanched once to remove saltiness from brine. Cover olives with water, bring to boil. Then boil 1/2 minute. Drain, cool and pit if desired. To pit cracked olive, tap each with light mallet. Pit will pop out.

Each serving contains about:

1,426 calories; 1082 mg sodium; 233 mg cholesterol; 132 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 37 grams protein; 1.22 grams fiber.

Variation:

After stuffing, duck may also be roasted at 325 degrees for 90 minutes. Use roasting juices to make sauce as directed above.

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