Ep 21 Tickle your tastebuds with The Iconic Muffalotta Sandwich and Bonus Salad Recipe
Central Grocery, an iconic specialty store in the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans has a secret recipe. Now I don't really think there are any original recipes except for when Igor first threw that bone in the fire many moons ago. Since then, in my opinion, there are only been renditions of recipes. Truth is, many secret family recipes are really a similar version of something that came off the back of a box or bag back from back in the day and has now become a family legend.
One day, the owner of the Central Grocery, Lupo Salvatore himself a Sicilian immigrant -- made an agreement for the Sicilian baker to supply bread to the Central Grocery, which then re-sold the bread to its customers. With that agreement, the Sicilian baker became a wholesaler, and the workers no longer bought their bread from the Sicilian baker but from the Central Grocery, where the workers bought all their lunch ingredients: bread, meats, cheese, and salad. In 1906, Lupo Salvatore decided to combine these ingredients into a sandwich. He decided to use the muffoletta bread, because of its ability to hold the filling without leaking. To make each sandwich, Lupo filled a muffoletta loaf with olive salad, meats, and cheeses; then he wrapped the sandwich in paper; and then he sold it as a muffoletta sandwich, except that he misspelled the name as muffuletta. After all, Lupo was a grocer, not a baker and thus not familiar with the spellings of the many Sicilian breads. In any event, even when misspelled, the muffuletta sandwich was so much easier to carry that it became an immediate, major success for the Central Grocery. Because muffoletta sandwiches were such a success, other groceries including the nearby Progress Grocery also began to sell muffoletta sandwiches. The other famous New Orleans sandwich, the po-boy, dates from the 1920's and so is not as old as the muffoletta sandwich. Over the last century (1903 2003), history lost the name of the Sicilian baker who first baked and sold muffoletta bread in New Orleans. But history did not lose the name of the Sicilian grocer who first introduced the muffoletta sandwich to the world: Signor Lupo Salvatore, owner of the Central Grocery." --- http://www.muffoletta.com/history/
Certain dishes are so ingrained in this region's stew-pot cuisine that to eliminate them would be unthinkable. One is muffuletta, an Italian submarine-type sandwich with a distinctive olive salad.
The locals affectionately call it "The Muff". I love this sandwich too because it has so much rich history to it. I mean it's been the same recipe since the early 1900s. Still today, there are lines for the Muffuletta at the famous Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the heart of the French Quarter. And once you get in there, plan on standing room only. I think everyone should have this sandwich in their repertoire, It's easy to make and it can transform even the most pedestrian lunchmeat into a spicy lunch or it can transition it into other dishes as well.
The Elusive Olive Salad
Imitated, but never duplicated is what the sign says in the Central Grocery. The secret recipe has never gotten out to my knowledge, but, there are lots of tasty imitations out there that will do nicely if you are trying to make one at home or you are not anywhere near NO.
Perfect for Entertaining
Three spinoff dishes one can make from some of the same ingredients are:
The Muffuletta Salad
Cocktail Muffulettas (mini sandwiches)
How do I make a Muffuletta Sandwich?
The authentic Muff requires an 8-inch semolina sesame topped loaf. Good luck finding that at your local grocery store. The closest thing I have found has been Focaccia. Here is a recipe from Joshua Weissman for the bread if you want to make it yourself on Youtube. Joshua says in the video that the Muff is the King of all Italian Sandwiches, I have to agree, it's amazing. As for the Olive Salad, you can buy Gardinaria at your local Italian grocery store and beef it up with capers and more olives in a pinch.
1 round 8-inch loaf of bread or 4 hoagie rolls
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic (optional)
4 ounces lean ham
4 ounces salami
4 ounces mortadella
4-6 ounces provolone or mozzarella or a mix
1 cup of Olive Salad or Store-bought Gardinara mix with 1 cup of mixed pitted chopped black and green olives and 1 teaspoon capers added.
Cut the bread horizontally, some folks take some of the bread out of the bottom or top to make room for more toppings, your choice.
Toast or no toast- again your choice. I don't remember ever eating a toasted Muff unless the whole thing was toasted.
Brush the bottom and the top of the bread with olive oil, you can add garlic if it suits you
Start with the meats first- 4 ounces of each- Ham, Salami, and Mortadella, I hear there is a shortage, so if you can't get it you can skip it and add more of the other meats. Provolone cheese is next, somewhere between 4 and 6 ounces, again depending on your taste. You can sub or combine Mozzarella cheese in there too.
Generously spoon a cup of olive salad on top of the meat and place the lid on.
Press it and cut it into quarters. Typically in New Orleans, you will order it by half or whole.
If you want to heat it, wrap it in foil and bake at 350F for about 30 minutes to heat it up.
I like to press mine overnight in the fridge if I am taking it on the road for a potluck or picnic, the pressing makes it easier to eat with your hands and it's less messy.
Muff on a Platter
I teach this salad in my cooking classes around Mardi Gras Time, It's almost like an antipasto which can be made with meat or meatless. For the meatless version, you would substitute roasted eggplant, marinated mushrooms, and artichoke hearts for the meat. I love the Veg version just as much as the meat version to tell you the truth, the flavors are so rustic and diverse, it makes your taste buds sing!
Since it was always difficult to find the right bread for my Muff, most times I decide to turn it into a salad. I love this recipe because it can be made in advance for dinner parties or it can be packed up for a showstopping potluck addition. For the sandwich which uses the olive salad, the ingredients are the same, they would be layered on the bread instead of chopped on a salad.
So it goes something like this:
Streetcar salad taught at a recent cooking class
Streetcar Olive Salad
Inspired from the Central Grocery in New Orleans, this recipe takes the idea of the famous olive salad mix and is served as a salad instead of a sandwich
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3/4 cup green cracked olives with pimentos
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, pitted
3/4 cup roasted red peppers
4 ounces of baby greens
1 large tomato, diced ¼ inch pieces
2 ribs celery, diced ¼ inch pieces
1 teaspoon non-pareil capers
4 ounces hard salami, sliced and diced in ½ inch pieces
4 ounces ham, sliced and diced in ½ inch pieces
8 ounces provolone cheese, sliced and diced in ½ inch pieces
Wash hands before starting to cook.
In a mixing bowl, mix oil, vinegar, and Italian Seasoning. Add ¼ cup of each olives and roasted red pepper. Mix well and set aside.
On a platter or large salad serving bowl, add lettuce, tomatoes, capers, celery, remaining olives and peppers, salami, ham, and provolone cheese. Pour dressing mixture over salad and toss gently.
Storage tips: You can make the olive mix (all ingredients in the recipe up to the baby greens ahead of time and at the last minute before serving, place the chopped mix including the tomatoes and celery on top of the lettuce, saving the dressing until the last to pour over the greens. Store in Fridge at least 40F
Presentation: This salad looks amazing sprawled out on a large platter. It does not need a dressing since the marinade is considered the dressing.
For Beverages, I recommend a Beer for this occasion, A lager would go nicely with the sandwich or the salad. Or a cup of New Orleans-style dark roast coffee, Community of course.
Want to learn more recipes that are easy, healthy, and perfect for cooking with friends? Stop on over at my website and register for my monthly newsletter at www.arlenecoco.com Also while you are at it, follow me on Facebook and Instagram.
If you happen to find yourself in the Big Easy and looking for a good Muff, check this story out by Eater. They say in the story, "If you are going to commit to a sandwich as big as a plate, go for the best"
"Too few people understand a really good sandwich."