Mind your mouth – muffulettas are great
Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 25, 2010
We have had a home in the French Quarter of New Orleans for 14 years and decided it was time to give the front a new color to brighten things up a bit. Our son, the architect, suggested we use a terra cotta used on another property a few blocks away. We found that the color was called “Tabasco,” so we figured it was meant to be. My husband thinks Tabasco is the only hot sauce.
My husband and I drove down and spent the day painting the front of the house. It was hot, but we worked fast and got the main body of the house painted by 1 p.m. The trim looked so bad we stayed a few hours longer and did that also. All who passed by on the street said it looked great.
Now lunchtime came, and I had not taken down any food this time, so we decided that a muffuletta was in order. We had not had this sandwich in years, so I went to Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter where the muffuletta was created.
The muffuletta sandwich is just one of the greatest sandwiches in the world, and you really cannot find it outside of New Orleans. Also, it is a bit of a lesson to those who think the only cultural and culinary heritage of New Orleans is French, Spanish, African and Creole. You can also ask people about the quintessential sandwich of New Orleans and most will say “po-boy,” but the muffuletta is as much New Orleans as the “po-boy”.
It is pure Italian, or pure Sicilian if you want to be specific. New Orleans, in its population and cuisine owes much to Italy and especially Sicily. The Italians have been coming to the Crescent City since the 1880s.
According to most theories, the muffuletta sandwich was invented by Signor Lupo Salvadore, who opened the now-famous little Italian market called Central Grocery on Decatur Street in 1906. Some say it was named after a favored customer, but some say the sandwich was named for the baker of the round Italian bread on which the sandwich is served.
This sandwich is not just a bunch of cold cuts and cheese. Anyone can make that. But to make the sandwich, you need two very important ingredients — the bread and the olive salad. In a pinch any good Italian bread will do, but for an authentic muffuletta, you need a muffuletta loaf. It’s round, usually sesame-seeded and about 10 inches in diameter. Most in New Orleans get their muffuletta loaf from Angelo Gendusa’s bakery.
Central Grocery has never given out their olive salad recipe, and lots of folks have tried to duplicate it. You can always buy a jar at Central Grocery, and it will keep for months in the refrigerator. New Orleanian cook and cookbook author Chiqui Collier has given this recipe for the olive salad in his cookbook, Cookery N’Orleans Style. It makes a gallon, but you probably do not want to cut it down since it will not taste as good. It makes great gifts and does keep for a very long time.
FOR THE OLIVE SALAD:
1 gallon large pimento stuffed green olives, slightly crushed and well drained
1 quart jar pickled cauliflower, drained and sliced
2 small jar capers, drained
1 whole stalk celery, sliced diagonally
4 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally
1 small jar celery seeds
1 small jar oregano
1 large head fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 jar pepperoncini, drained (small salad peppers) left whole
1 pound large Greek black olives
1 jar cocktail onions, drained
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pot and mix well. Place in a large jar and cover with ½ olive oil and ½ Crisco oil. Store tightly covered in refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.
FOR THE SANDWICH:
1 round loaf Italian bread
¼ pound mortadella, thinly sliced
¼ pound ham, thinly sliced
¼ pound hard Genoa salami, thinly sliced
¼ pound Mozzarella cheese, sliced
¼ pound Provolone cheese, sliced
1 cup olive salad with oil
Split a muffuletta loaf or a loaf of Italian bread horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and oil. Place meats and cheeses evenly on bottom half and cover top half of bread. Cut in quarters. Enjoy!
This serves four timid eaters, and two hearty eaters. The price at Central Grocery was $14 for the sandwich.
Well, the house got painted, and I got a good sandwich. It was another good day in New Orleans!