One of the ultimate finger foods has to be the good old American sandwich. And it dawned on me last week, while working on my banh mi appetizers, that I have never posted anything on the muffuletta (pronounced “muff-uh-LOTT-a”)–one of the greatest and most generous sandwiches New Orleans has to offer. The muffuletta was created in the early 1900s by the original owner of Central Grocery, a small family-owned Italian grocery store/lunch counter in the French Quarter. This unique sandwich is made on a soft, circular Italian bread loaf piled high with cured meat, Swiss or provolone cheese and olive salad–a heady mixture of marinated olives, pickled Italian veggies and garlic.
The olive salad is what sets this sandwich apart from all others. And while I would encourage everyone to make it from scratch, at least once, the perfect muffaletta is really only a jar away. That’s because Central Grocery, and many other local stores (and even bakeries), sell their own olive salads. If you live outside South Louisiana, there are a couple of local Italian food manufacturers, like Boscoli, who make it and ship it around the country. Look for it in the pickle aisle or in the deli department
There are two classic ways to wash down the muffuletta. One is with an ice-cold Barq’s Root Beer. Barq’s remains a hometown favorite even though it’s no longer made in New Orleans. The second is with a refreshing beer (no surprise there), especially one from a Louisiana-based microbrewery–Abita, NOLA, Heiner Brau, Bayou Teche and Parish, to name a few!
Until next week …
1 muffuletta loaf (or 1 7-to-9-inch round Italian loaf)
1 cup Italian Olive Salad, with marinade*
1/2 pound ham, thinly sliced
1/2 pound Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/2 pound mortadella, thinly sliced
1/2 pound provolone, thinly sliced
COLD VERSION. Slice muffuletta loaf in half horizontally; brush the inside of each half with olive oil marinade from the olive salad. Arrange ham over bottom half of bread. Add layers of salami, mortadella and provolone. Top with olive salad. Cover with top of bread. Tightly wrap sandwich is plastic wrap; chill for 1 hour before serving.
WARM VERSION. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Construct the muffuletta the same way as the cold version. Tightly wrap sandwich in aluminum foil. Bake until sandwich is heated through and cheese is melted, 15-20 minutes.
Slice sandwich into wedges to serve. Serves 4-6.
*Homemade olive salad is the bomb! But if you don’t have time to make it, you can pick up one of the many jarred varieties from the grocery store. They can usually be found in the pickle aisle or deli department.