Party Appetizer Recipe: Cheddar Olives

When planning a cocktail party, I always make sure to have one "straight-from-freezer-to-oven" recipe, and I make extra. You can keep refilling the tray as long as you need to, and any leftovers stay in the freezer for the next party. There's only one problem. With these cheddar olives, my favorite straight-from-freezer-to-oven recipe, there are never any leftovers. Ever. No matter how many I make. People just can't get enough of the warm, cheddary, slightly crumbly pastry enclosing a juicy olive.

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These cheddar olives come together in a snap — a single recipe probably takes about 20 minutes or less to get in the oven. Obviously, the more you make, the longer it will take, but once you've got the dough made, rolling the olives is pretty mindless. It's perfect for catching up on your TV watching, or having a good chat.

This is an old southern bridge party recipe - you'll find versions of it in many cookbooks. This one is my favorite.

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Tester's Notes

I had to make this recipe because I honestly couldn't imagine how it would taste. Cheddar dough? Wrapped around a simple green olive? Say what?

And I was totally blown away! The cheesy dough bakes up crispy and tender in the oven while the olive becomes warm and juicy. Biting into one of these little nubbly snacks is a surprising burst of flavors: a breath of cheddar, the meatiness of the olive, a burst of salty olive juice. For a salt fiend like me, this snack is a revelation. And Nina is totally right — set these out at a party and they're gone in minutes.

I made a few tweaks to her basic recipe below. I felt like the dough wasn't quite enough for the small bottle of olives I had, so I increased the recipe by half. The recipe still isn't an exact science, so you'll probably always end up with a bit of leftover dough or a few extra olives, but I think a little more dough balances everything out.

Other than that, the recipe is perfect. Make it. Make a double batch. The guests at your next dinner party will sing your praises. - Emma

Cheddar Olives

Makes enough to feed 6-8 as an appetizer

1 8- to 10- ounce jar of pitted green olives, either pimento-stuffed or plain.
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, smoked paprika or freshly grated black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Drain the olives well, and dry them completely with clean dish towels. Set aside.

Combine the cheese, flour, butter, and spices in a medium bowl and knead it within the bowl until a dough forms. If the dough is still crumbly and won't hold together, add water 1 teaspoon at a time until it does.

Pinch off a small amount of dough, and press it as thin as you can between your fingers to flatten. Wrap and smoosh the dough around a dry olive. Pinch off any excess, then roll the olive in your hands until smooth. Continue until all the olives are covered.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown all over. Alternatively, freeze the olives on a baking sheet until firm, then wrapped tightly and freeze for up to a week. Bake straight from the freezer for 20-25 minutes.

Serve immediately.

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This post has been updated. Originally published 04/02/08

(Images: Emma Christensen)

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