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.
  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.

Although from what I hear, things have changed around there but those days sure were some good times.

New Orleans Muffulettas usually have Cappicola ham - which is an Italian ham similar to prosciutto, but if there is no deli that sells Cappicola in your area, use regular ham. Serio's Deli uses Mortadela on their muffuletta, but it can also be difficult to find outside of New Orleans.

Mortadela is an Italian cold cut made of pork, so the closest thing to it would be bologna, so substitute that if you have to. Rouses Grocery store here in Mississippi, usually carries Mortadela in the deli, and it's often 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 really 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. We have Sal & Judy's Olive Salad here locally but Central Grocery is available on Amazon (#ad), along with a few others. Olive salad is a very good addition to a pasta and potato salad too y'all.

Sal & Judy's is 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 included 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 mix giardiniera, or preferably the sandwich mix available now, to the olive salad. Peperoncini are mild yellow peppers and giardiniera is a mélange 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.

At this time I wasn't able to find a few of the common meats typically use, so here are the 3 meats I used. At the top is ham - use Cappicola ham if can find it, then clockwise, use Mortadela if you can find that, but I couldn't so the closest thing to that would be bologna, and last, 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 ol 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 once were  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 wimpy 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!

For more of my favorite sandwiches, visit my page on Pinterest!

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Posted by on January 25, 2009
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