Many years ago, I lived in the Crescent City.
This was in a time of relative innocence before Katrina, before the Saints were consistently good, before Casino gambling was legal, but ….it was not a time before there was good food. I think there has ALWAYS been good food in New Orleans. It was probably written into the Louisiana Purchase agreement.
You can’t swing a stick in that city without hitting a restaurant or sandwich shop or street vendor selling some delicacy…that is good to eat.
While living there, I discovered many unique foods: stale pastries with little plastic figurines in them are great party foods, street vendor hot dogs at 2 AM are THE BEST, oysters and crawfish taste better when you drink cheap local beers, coffee with chicory (tree bark) is best with cheap stale pastries or deep fried donuts with powdered sugar (beignets), crawfish etouffe’, po-boys are superior to subs, hoagies, or hero sandwiches,
and the muffuletta is a big-@$$ sandwich.
The muffuletta (moo-foo-let-ah) is a creation of the Italian community of New Orleans. The story goes that ca. 1906, Sicilian farmers selling produce at the Farmer’s Market would stop into the nearby Central Grocery for lunch. They would order ham, salami, cheese, olive salad, and bread, and then sit out on barrels or crates with everything spread out, eating everything separately (as is typical in Sicilian culture). The proprietor of Central Grocery (Signor Lupos Salvatore) suggested that they cut open the bread and prepare everything as a sandwich, and a new sandwich was born. The muffuletta is ubiquitous in New Orleans now, but there is a sign outside Central Grocery claiming the birthright. The name was derived from the bread roll used, which was determined to be better than french bread (already in high use for po-boy sandwiches) due to its soft interior and crunchy exterior. The typical muffuletta roll is a flat-ish bread disk that is about 10 inches in diameter. So it’s a huge sandwich. That is why it is typical for sandwich shops to sell 1/4 or 1/2 muffulettas.
Too much food you say?
There is a way to bring a little of that Noo Awlins food to your kitchen.
Single Muffuletta Sandwiches*
Ham, sliced (can be traditional Italian style ham (capicola), or something like Black Forest Ham. Use salty, cured hams, not sugar-cured or sweetened)
Provolone cheese, sliced
Mozzarella cheese, sliced
Marinated olive salad (Giardiniera or similar)**
Kaiser roll or similar bread
Cut the bread roll horizontally, and dress the bottom slice with the olive salad. Add the sliced ham, cheese and salami in alternating layers to the bottom bread roll and top with more cheese. Top the sandwich with more olive salad and the top piece of bread roll. You can prepare several sandwiches this way for a family, party or to save for later.
You may eat your muffuletta cold (as is traditional), or it can be toasted for 15 minutes or so (as shown below). Serve with some good ridged/ruffled potato chips.
**There are store brand giardiniera salad mixes that are quite good, or you can be adventurous and try to make your own. Someday, when I’m feeling more adventurous….