Muffuletta - (moof-fuh-LEHT-tuh or moo-foo-LE-ta)
– Its nickname is simply “muff.”
These sandwiches can be found all over New Orleans from deli's to pool halls and the corner grocery stores. It is a Sicilian sandwich that consists of a round loaf of bread (about 10 inches across) filled with Italian salami, olive salad, cheese, Italian ham, and freshly minced garlic. They key ingredient is the olive salad which gives the sandwich its special flavor and makes it appealing to the eye. A true Muffuletta Sandwich must always be served at room temperature, never toasted; it is considered blasphemy to heat the sandwich.
History: The Central Grocery on Decatur Street claims to have invented this sandwich in 1906. Signor Lupo Salvatore, owner of the Central Grocery, started making the sandwiches for the men who worked the nearby wharves and produce stalls of the French Market. The sign over the covered sidewalk proudly proclaims, home of “The Original Muffuletta.”
Central Grocery's biggest competitor, Progress Grocery, is just two doors away. The Progress Grocery started in 1924 as an offshoot of Central Grocery. Their sign proclaims the "Finest Muffuletta."
To this day, tourists and locals line up at both stores out into the street, waiting for their sandwiches. Muffulettas are more than just sandwiches, they're a tourist attraction, especially during Mardi Gras.
Marie Lupo Tusa, daughter of the grocery's founder, tells the story of the sandwich's origin in her 1980 cookbook, Marie's Melting Pot.
One of the most interesting aspects of my father's grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich. The mufuletta was created in the early 1900's when the Farmers' Market was in the same area as the grocery. Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian. Every day they used to come of my father's grocery for lunch.
They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately. The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees. My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. He experimented and found that the ticker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite but the softer round muffuletta was ideal for his sandwich. In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a "muffuletta" for their lunch.
1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, crushed
1/2 cup drained kalamata olives, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup roughly chopped pickled cauliflower
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tablespoon chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped carrot
1/2 cup pepperoncini, drained
1/4 cup marinated cocktail onions
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2 (1 pound) loaves Italian bread
8 ounces thinly sliced Genoa salami
8 ounces thinly sliced cooked ham
8 ounces sliced mortadella
8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
8 ounces sliced provolone cheese
1. To Make Olive Salad: In a medium bowl, combine the green olives, kalamata olives, garlic, cauliflower, capers, celery, carrot, pepperoncini, cocktail onions, celery seed, oregano, basil, black pepper, vinegar, olive oil and canola oil. Mix together and transfer mixture into a glass jar (or other nonreactive container). If needed, pour in more oil to cover. Cover jar or container and refrigerate at least overnight.
2. To Make Sandwiches: Cut loaves of bread in half horizontally; hollow out some of the excess bread to make room for filling. Spread each piece of bread with equal amounts olive salad, including oil. Layer 'bottom half' of each loaf with 1/2 of the salami, ham, mortadella, mozzarella and Provolone. Replace 'top half' on each loaf and cut sandwich into quarters.
3. Serve immediately, or wrap tightly and refrigerate for a few hours; this will allow for the flavors to mingle and the olive salad to soak into the bread.