Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Orleans Style Muffuletta

A classic New Orleans Italian sandwich with layers of meat and cheese buried in a thick, dense bread and dressed with olive salad loaded, with olive oil.

New Orleans Style Muffuletta

If you don't like a lot of cold cuts, olives, or olive oil, but especially if you don't like olives, you'll want to skip this post, because the olive salad is the real star of the New Orleans Muffuletta. By the way - there are many ways to say muffuletta - even around here there are predominately two, "muff-uh-LEHT-tuh" or "moof-fuh-LEHT-tuh."

Sometimes some of the ingredients found in an authentic New Orleans muffuletta are even hard to find around here. Which is kinda odd seeing as we are so close to New Orleans and all, but outside of the restaurants that serve muffuletta sandwiches around here, I'm not sure there are a lot of South Mississippians who are making Muffulettas at home.

While Italians certainly brought the sandwich to New Orleans, in truth, the New Orleans versions vary according to the deli you get it from anyway, because they all seem to have their own twists on it. Central Grocery, which is where it is said this sandwich originated back in the early 1900s, does it a little bit different than Progress grocery, who do it differently from Serio’s Deli, who do it differently from Gambinos, even though they are all practically downtown neighbors. Back in the good ole days when I lived on the West Bank of New Orleans, we usually got ours at Di Martino's on Carol Sue Avenue in Gretna, and made a meal of it for days. Those were some good times.

New Orleans Muffulettas usually have Cappicola ham - which is an Italian ham similar to prosciutto, but nobody around here sells Cappicola, and I use prefer regular ham on my muffuletta over prosciutto. Serio's Deli uses Mortadela on their muffuletta, but none of the grocery stores around here carry that either. Mortadela is an Italian cold cut made of pork and can be a challenge to find sometimes also, so the closest thing to it would be bologna, so that's what I use here. Rouses Grocery carries Mortadela in the deli, and it's the kind with pistachios - yum!

The other key factor to a successful muffuletta is the bread. Ideally, we would make our own, but a good, dense 10 to 12-inch round Italian bread is the best bet to hold up to the juices from the olive salad and olive oil. You can see from my pictures that the bread very quickly soaked up the olive oil, so make sure you get a good dense bread. If you are making mini sandwiches for tailgating, you'll want to just use the olive salad as a spread and go easy with the oily juices.

As you see this is a substantial sandwich. Out of the half I made up there, I can eat about 1/4 of that half. The Cajun will eat half of the half.

By the way, whether tailgating with mini sliders on Hawaiian rolls, or prepared on muffuletta bread, these are great party fare. Just halve the sandwich, then cut into quarters, secure with some of those long cocktail picks to hold 'em together and watch your guests gobble 'em up!

So, let's build a Muffuletta!

First we'll be startin' with some bread. Now ideally you'll want a muffuletta loaf, because for this sandwich you need a solid, dense and crusty bread that'll stand up to these fillings and all that oil. But, unless you live in New Orleans, you're not gonna be likely to find one, so a good French bread should work. A round loaf of No Knead Bread would also work if you want to make your own.

The star of the Muffuletta is the olive salad. You can go and make your own, but there are lots of good ones on the market now. You want one that has a good mix of olives and veggies in it and plenty of good extra virgin olive oil. I like Sal & Judy's Olive Salad - it's perfect.

It's an old Sicilian recipe of Chef Sal's and there are tons of green nocellara del belice, Kalamta and black olives in it, capers, garlic, veggies, and a good mix of spices, some balsamic vinegar and it's loaded with good EVOO. And it saves me a lot of work, but... if you want to make your own, there's a recipe at the bottom of this post as a guideline for you.

Even though there's a little bit of this in Sal & Judy's I like to add a little extra Mezzetta Greek peperoncini and Italian giardiniera to the olive salad. Peperoncini are mild yellow peppers and giardiniera is a melange of pickled onion, celery, summer veggies, carrots and cauliflower.

So here's the Olive Salad on it's own.

To which I added a few peperoncini that I've split, sliced and removed the stems.

On top of that, I scoop a little bit extra giardiniera.

Stir it all up together real good and set it aside to meld together.

Now here are the 3 meats I use. At the top is ham - use Cappicola ham if can find it, then clockwise, bologna - use Mortadela if you can find that, and last, the salami.

There are two different cheeses that I like to use - Swiss and Provolone. I love Sargento natural cheeses - I can always count on the quality and they taste fantastic!

Now we're gonna start building our sandwich. Here's the leftover bread that I'm using this time. I've warmed it up in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, to freshen it since it was a few days old. Now you can make a whole sandwich out of a full whole round loaf, but obviously this is only a half loaf, since it's just me and The Cajun. I sliced it slightly heavier on one side to accommodate the oils from the olive salad.

First, load up one side of the bread with the Olive Salad. Then we'll start layering the meats on the other side. You'll notice there is no mayonnaise or mustard involved in the making of a Muffuletta, and in New Orleans, that would be considered blasphemy!! (But if you want it, go ahead ... I won't tell.)

First meat layer is the Cappicola ham, prosciutto, or if like me you can't find that in your area, use your favorite deli ham.

Top that with the Swiss cheese.

And after that, add the Mortadela, or if you can't find that, substitute good old bologna.

Followed by the Provolone.

And last, the salami.

Now, carefully put the two sides together and voila! You now have yourself a very fine, New Orleans Style Muffuletta. People seem to have taken to eating warmed muffulettas, and though they are traditionally served cold, I've come to like them heated myself. Just wrap tightly in aluminum foil and warm in a 400 degree F, preheated oven for about 30 minutes.

Now cut that half in half and give half to your sweetie. Eat the other half if you're a real woman, but if you're a bit whimpy like me, cut your half in half, eat one quarter and save the other one for later. See how quickly the bread begins to soak up the olive oil? This is why there is no mayonnaise or mustard involved. You really don't need it because all of that olivey oily goodness just soaks up into the bread. Which is another reason you really need to start with a good, solid dense loaf of bread, or you'll basically end up with what is more of a Panzanella salad on your hands. Now let's see ya wrap yer mouth around that!

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Recipe: New Orleans Style Muffuletta

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 loaf of 10 to 12-inch round Muffuletta bread or substitute with a similar Italian bread
  • 1 cup of olive salad {recipe below}
  • 1/2 cup of peperoncini
  • 1/2 cup of giardiniera
  • 8 slices of Cappicola ham or your favorite deli ham
  • 8 slices of Swiss cheese
  • 8 slices of Mortadella or substitute with bologna
  • 8 slices of Provolone cheese
  • 8 slices of Genoa hard salami

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the bread in half length-wise and pile the olive salad on one half of the bread.

Begin to layer the meats on the other half, beginning with the ham, then the Swiss cheese, then the bologna, then the Provolone, then the salami. Carefully put the two halves together and moosh them down together. Wrap completely in aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until heated through. Cut into halves and quarters to serve up to 4. May also be served cold.

Cook's Notes: We serve muffulettas with a bottled Barq's root beer and a side of Zapp's potato chips, because that's about all you need with this hearty sandwich. A side of potato salad or a simple pasta salad is also good. If you don't want to make up your own olive salad, I recommend Sal & Judy's Olive Salad, and Mezzetta Greek peperoncini and Italian giardiniera. If you'd rather have the olive salad cold, wait to add it after you've heated the sandwich.

Muffuletta Sliders: Prepare sandwiches on mini dinner rolls (like King's Hawaiian dinner rolls), going lighter on the olive salad juices. If heating, place rolls on several layers of aluminum foil on a tray. Slice completely across the rolls, keeping top and bottom rolls intact, and removing the top section in one piece. Add olive salad, and layer meats and cheeses as listed, wrap completely in foil and bake as above. Use a serrated knife to cut through the sandwiches before plating. May also cut meats and cheeses to accommodate the buns if using separated rolls.

Tailgating Tips: Use sandwich wrappers and stack sandwiches on their side in a tray to reduce soggy buns from dripping juices. Serve immediately, or can be made a day ahead by storing tray in refrigerator until game day. Great for other parties too!


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©Deep South Dish
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If you want to venture out into making your own Olive Salad, here are some things to put into your mixture.

Olive Salad
From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish

Amounts are just estimates - use more or less as you like!
  • 1-1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/4 cup of pitted Kalamta olives
  • 1/4 cup of black olives
  • 1/3 cup of pimento
  • 1 cup of Italian giardiniera
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup peperoncini
  • 1/2 cup pickled pearl onions
  • 1 tablespoon of Capers
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups of very good, extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Combine everything and let marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Olive salad is also good on bruschetta! Just take slices of crusty french bread cut on the bias and toast. Rub a garlic clove over the top of the slices and pile on some undrained olive salad. Yum!!


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Check These Recipes Out Too Y'all!

Spicy Crockpot Italian Beef
Yummy Hamburger Sandwich
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Posted by on January 25, 2009
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  1. My goodness! I read this recipe to my hubby and he want's me to make one for superbowl. What a great sandwich. I've had this sandwich several ways but how you fix it sounds the best. Thank you.

  2. You're welcome - it's a great sandwich for the game! Come back and tell me how it went okay?

  3. Hi here in Rhode Island we have called this an Italian Grinder for the past 60 years at least that is far back as I can remember. We just call this one the deluxe version, the only difference is we also add tomato and onions, sometimes lettuce. Lots of people use the olive salad as well as the Giardeniera mix as it is so readily available at most if not every grocery store here. Federal Hill grocery stores also make this same sandwich, Capicola both Sweet and hot,Prosciutto, Mortadela,sharp provolone, peperoncini with olive salad. You need to buy the Gardiniera separate as a side dish and add it yourself. Sometime also the olive salad is sold as a side too. We have a great bakery here in Rhode Island called Bruno's and they make the best Italian Bread in the Northeast.

  4. That is so cool to know!! I've only grown up with the muffuletta down here of course and here a muffuletta would never include lettuce, tomato or onion, though I am absolutely certain I would love it that way! Don't tell anybody but I kinda always secretly felt it needed those elements to help counter all the olive!! :) I know y'all have some awesome bread and sandwiches up that way. Maybe one day I'll actually get to eat some!!

  5. When we visited the French Quarter we ate these sandwiches but they were served warm so the cheese was slightly melted. At what point could you heat or grill these?

    1. Hi Mary! To serve it warm, you can construct the sandwich completely, wrap it in foil nice and tight and put it into a preheated 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. If you'd rather have the olive salad cold, wait to add it after you've heated the sandwich. Hope that helps - enjoy!

    2. And enjoy we did - made this for Father's Day,along with a creamy pasta vegetable salad, it was a hit! I prepared the sandwich, including the olives, wrapped each half in foil and heated @ 400 for about 20 minutes, perfect! (My local grocery store carries mortadella with pistachios, very tasty.) Your pictures make it so easy to follow the recipe, thanks again!

    3. I'm so thrilled to hear that Mary!! Thanks for taking the time to come back by and let me know. I hope it brought you back down to the Quarter for a little bit!

  6. Oh my goodness, this is my absolute favorite food!!! There is a restaurant in Bessemer, AL named "Muffaletta's"! They serve the absolute best Muffaletta! I wish I could figure theirs out. I have attempted maybe a dozen times or more. They are good, but not the same! I live on the coast in Alabama now, so a good 4 hour drive from Bessemer! I did make the drive (with my mouth watering) once to New Orleans just to eat at Central Grocery but was very disappointed. My FIL passed away this past April. We had to go to Birmingham for the funeral. On the way home, I munched almost the entire trip on my Muffaletta! I wish I bought ten and brought them home to freeze!

    1. I bet they use some kind of secret addition to their olive salad - don't you hate that?!!

  7. Mary, My grandpa and I used to sneak off to the Arthur Avenue Deli in NYC’s Little Italy for something very similar. We both loved it. I didn’t experience the real deal until the mid 70’s when I decided that I wanted to see the country. I went out and bought my own tractor-trailer, saw all the “lower 48” and got paid for it. The south was my playground. I loved it and that’s why I live in SC now. When I hit “N’awlins,” a bunch of us got together, jumped in my tractor and headed off to this little nothing ‘hole in the wall,’ (as I remember it) mom and pop grocery store for my first Muffuletta: Central Grocery. I absolutely loved it! I’ve made it a number of times since.
    I feel your pain when it comes to not finding ingredients. I came south from NYC; ‘nuff said. Fortunately, Columbia, SC, isn’t far away. I can get most anything except real old world specialty foods… and good Kielbasa. Bread can really make or break this. I used to make this on a homemade semolina loaf. I then tried it on a homemade rosemary and Kalamata olive Italian loaf. That was outstanding. I made this last year for a lunch that we do at church every Wednesday. I took a little twist. For my bread, I made two commercial sheet pan sized rosemary and Kalamata olive focaccia breads. I carefully sliced a thin slice of the bread off the top of the bottom and the bottom of the top, and then constructed my sandwich on that. Fortunately there were only 12 people. It was obviously good. There weren’t even any crumbs left.
    I can see that I’m off on another food quest; to find Sal & Judy’s Olive Salad. It looks outstanding. I usually make my own but then it really has to have time to pickle in order to infuse and meld all of those flavors. I’m not that patient.
    Thanks for the recipe. God bless.

    1. They sell Sal & Judy's at our Walmart so hopefully you'll find it too. I love that stuff!

  8. Mary, Grew up in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. There used to be this little place outside of Independence, Louisiana ( Home of the Little Italy Festival) that sold a seafood Muffaletta. Fried catfish, fried shrimp and fried crawfish tails instead of the sliced meats. Sounds unusual but was to die for.

    1. Oh my goodness, that's sounds like something I would love!


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