This might be one of the shorter posts I write. Unlike relaxed September, October is the kick off my fundraising and holiday season. Over the next week I will be shopping, prepping and cooking dinner in my home kitchen for more than 30 people and serving it at a friend’s home in a neighboring city to benefit a children’s advocacy group. As usual, I’m still debating about the menu, which has to be finalized by the time I start grocery shopping on Sunday. Oh and if that wasn’t enough, tomorrow is an additional work day as well as the first party in what is traditionally a month-long series of Halloween fetes. (Costume!? Oh, crumb.). In November we do this all over again; different dinner theme, different holiday. (But thankfully, no themed costume.) I welcome the Christmas holidays because believe it or not, things slow down for me.
I love olives. D does not. This week’s recipe involves making homemade tapenade, a spread of finely chopped olives and seasonings which concentrates the olive flavor intensely. Dorie’s tapenade recipe recommends oil cured olives, a kind that make you re-think the experience of “olives:” they are bit softer, dryer, and not bright and tangy like those cured in a brine. Think about how a grape compares to a raisin. A small amount of the tapenade is used to season the Cornish hens. All good so far.
Well, then I got to thinking, Pancetta Green Beans would be good. And while I’m at it, maybe I should whip up some Coconut Lemongrass Braised Pork for tomorrow. You can guess where this is going: I put the split and flattened Cornish hens in the 500 degree oven, chopped up and browned pork shoulder chunks, crisped pancetta in the big cast iron pan, cleaned those pesky ends off some green beans…oh and where is that jar of whole coriander? Hummm, Madras or garam marsala curry? Hot or mild?
45 minutes later: overcooked hens.
It’s not really fair to judge this recipe that has a bit too much of the mayhem, and not quite enough of the tasty. Or the juicy. Here is what D and I agreed on: we both like the tapenade flavoring the normally bland flesh of the hens. So much so that we wondered how much more olive flavor the bird would stand up to. D wondered if more of the olive paste that gave it a nice, but perhaps too subtle a flavor, would make the olive hater like it less or more? What exactly is the olive flavor tipping point? A second test run is in order. The skin was crisp (deliciously so, even with the extra quarter-hour), tasting of the second layer of olive, the oil rubbed into the skin. The Pancetta Green Beans? Peppery and salty, and cooked to a perfect al dente doneness (Well, unless you are D for whom no green bean is truly cooked unless if can be cut with a spoon. Oh well. More green beans glistening with butter and pork fat for me. 🙂
There were two options for oil cured olives at my store: seasoned with roasted garlic or Herbs Provencal. I went with the herb flavored, and left out the additional herbs called for in the tapenade.
I used extra virgin olive oil, the really green kind.
And, hopefully by now you realize I used more pancetta in the green beans than the recipe calls for. As the sign says: either you like bacon, or you are wrong.
The French Fridays with Dorie group is cooking up a new dish every week but we are not publishing recipes. Pick up a copy of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan to cook along with us or on your own guests at home.