I fell head over heels in love with the muffuletta sandwich almost thirty years ago on my first visit to New Orleans.
Now, I can’t visit the Big Easy without one. (That and a beignet.)
What’s a muffuletta, you might ask?
Simply put: an iconic sandwich from New Orleans that is made from a flat round loaf of sesame-seeded Italian bread ten inches across, deli meats, cheese, and an olive salad. The name itself comes from the old world name of the bread. And the spelling varies from person-to-person, place-to-place. The Central Grocery on Decatur Street, where the sandwich was purportedly invented in 1906, has a sign out front that spells it muffuletta. But some places change the second ‘u’ to an ‘a’ for some reason: muffaletta.
And if you go to Central Grocery you’ll hear it pronounced moo-foo-LET-uh.
For me it starts with the right bread.
And the bread is unlike anything I’ve ever found been able to find locally, so I make my own.
(I’ve had sandwiches calling themselves muffulettas where the bread is wrong and they made me sad.)
I use a recipe from the 1986 cookbook Cajun-Creole Cooking by Terry Thompson.
This is a recipe from the 1986 Cajun-Creole Cooking by Terry Thompson.
- 1 cup warm water (110°F)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Stir together the water, yeast, and sugar and set aside to proof the yeast. (It should be somewhat foamy if it's good.)
In your food processor using the dough blade, combine the flour, salt, and shortening.
With the food processor running, drizzle in the yeast mixture and let run until the dough combines into a ball. As the original recipe says, "It should be smooth and satiny."
Like any dough or batter, if it's too wet add a little flour. If it's too dry, add a little water.
Let the dough rise to twice its volume in an oiled bowl sealed with plastic wrap. This takes about an hour and a half to two hours mostly depending on the temperature in the kitchen.
On a greased baking sheet, flatten the dough into a ten inch round and recover with the plastic.
Scatter the sesame seeds over the dough and gently press them into it.
Let the dough rise for another hour.
Remove the plastic and bake in the middle of preheated a 425° oven for 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375° and bake another 25 minutes. The bread is done when you tap it lightly in the center and it sounds hollow.
And those Olives!
The olive salad combines chopped green and black olives, celery, cauliflower, carrots, oregano, garlic, olive oil, and giardiniera (pickled Italian vegetable mix).
My wife and I were at Costco for our monthly expedition and lucked upon a jar of muffuletta salad and I could not resist. The label was clean and I was sold.
I added slices of salami, capicola, ham, and provolone.
And it’s a thing of beauty.
It is a lot of food so find some people to share the love.
Now if I could just get a pint of Turbo Dog locally to go with it….