Eating is OK

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Muffaletta Utah

For those not familiar with the muffaletta, it's a New Orleans sandwich from the Italian tradition. Like a lot of foods developed in New Orleans, it's next to impossible to find these anywhere else. While living in New Orleans and the surrounding environs, if you want a muffaletta you just go out and buy one. If you have the odd urge to make your own, you can buy olive salad and muffaletta bread at the grocery store. It's a cold, cruel world everywhere else.

The first hurdle you encounter in the outside world is finding bread. The muffaletta is a soggy sandwich, and requires a sturdy bread. However, it shouldn't be particularly crusty, so most artisan breads are out. If I have time to make my own bread, I use the Sicilian Bread recipe from Great Breads by Martha Rose Shulman. It calls for fine semolina, which makes it sturdy but not heavy. I shape it into flattish rounds maybe 8" across.

This time I didn't have time to bake, so we tried ciabatta, which Paul and Chris found at Granato's.

The loaves were a little too thick, so had to have the middles shaved out; and I thought they were a little too dry on the corners: probably because they are square rather than round; a real muffaletta loaf doesn't have corners. Other than that they worked fine, so I think you could use a ciabatta recipe and just make the breads round.

The second hurdle you encounter is finding olive salad. Olive salad is the key ingredient, the thing that turns a ham and salami sandwich into a muffaletta. Caputo's in Salt Lake now carries an authentic olive salad, which is a great relief. Oddly, Todd and Joanne say that the muffaletta they serve in their restaurant still doesn't taste authentic.

Before Caputo's began carrying it, we made our own olive salad. I would get a couple of 8 oz. bottles of pickled giardinara, that Italian pickle mix containing celery, onions, and so forth, and maybe a pound of Italian-seasoned green olives in oil. That's a deli item; I haven't found it at grocery stores. We would drain off and discard the vinegar from the giardinara, then laboriously carve the olives away from the pits, retaining the seasoned olive oil. We would mix the giardinara with the olives and their oil and let the mixture marinate overnight. We would keep a regular bottle of green olives in reserve in case our marinated mix came up short.

The meat isn't so hard. Ham, salami, and some kind of white cheese such as provolone or mozzarella is good enough. However, since we are deli-heads we usually go Italian on the ingredients. This time Chris did the shopping. This is what he came up with:

1. 1 lb. Genovese; 2. 1 lb. Capicola; 3. 2 lbs. Mortadella, but we only ended up using half of it; 4. 1 lb. Provolone--I would have bought twice as much, but people seemed satisfied with this amount; 5. 2 lbs. olive salad, but we could have used 3 lbs; 6. 1 lb. Sopresatta calabrese (you can use regular sopresatta if you don't like spicy foods)

I don't think anyone but Chris would put mortadella in a muffaletta, but it works. Chris hasn't been to New Orleans, but lived in Italy for a few years, so that probably explains it.

The other key ingredient is garlic.

I believe one mistake most restaurants make is skipping the first step of muffaletta preparation, which is to brush the breads with olive oil and then spread with fresh crushed garlic.

I figured on three people sharing one sandwich since the ciabatta loaves were so large, and crushed six cloves of garlic for each ciabatta: 2 cloves per person.

At this point some people add a layer of olive salad to the bread; it sounds like a good idea. We usually just start slapping on the meats, usually a pound of meat per sandwich since several people will share it, and cheese.






We like our muffalettas toasted so the cheese gets all melty and the garlic on the "lid" gets roasted. We then pile on the olive salad

put on the lid, and divide it up.

In retrospect, I believe the same amount of ingredients spread over three ciabatta instead of four would have been better.

For those who want an actual recipe, try this:

Mufaletta to serve 4

1 ciabatta loaf or large round, flat Sicilian loaf
4-6 oz. ham
4-8 oz. salami
4-6 oz. provolone cheese
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 c. olive oil
1 lb. olive salad

Slice bread in half horizontally (make a bottom and top). Spread both halves of bread with olive oil and crushed garlic. Spread half of the olive salad on the bread which will be the bottom of the sandwich. Pile on the meats, then the cheese. Toast along with the other half of the bread (oiled side up) until sandwich is hot all the way through. Pile on remaining olive salad, add lid, and cut in four pieces. Serve.


At 11:02 PM, Blogger Terri said...

MMMM I am making this on Sunday. Yum! I have an olive pitter so am not afraid of the pitting. The Veggies in the house will get 2 kinds of cheese instead of the meat. The Meaties will be very pleased.
Thanks for sharing Tan.

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Thank you for mentioning our olive spread in your article. I frequent New Orleans often. However, with both our olive spread and our Muffaletta sandwich we have tried to improve upon the classic not replicate it. We feel our Muffaletta is superior in almost everyway to the original from the Central Grocery. Earlier this month I was in New Orleans and dissected the classic. The only thing that one could argue is better on theirs is the bread. However, the quality of the meats, cheese and olive spread they use are all super cheap brands.
Matt Caputo


Post a Comment

<< Home