Muffuletta

Party time! Almost. Just a few more days of cramming for exams, finishing projects and dotting the last sentences of our essays and we’ll be free to celebrate the victories and dwell in our sorrows. YAY!

No better way to celebrate than by inviting some friends over and treating them to a muffuletta. A whatta? It’s a sandwich invented by Italian immigrants in New Orleans. Most importantly, it’s the way the sandwich is assembled rather than the ingredients used, although still very important, that makes it a muffuletta.

It’s a sandwich that will feed about six to eight people, so it’s perfect for that first get-together with classmates to discuss how much you miss them. Though let’s be honest, it’s been at least one full day since you saw them last. It can also be made to be enjoyed by one for the next three to four days. Either way it is a good way to extend the dollar that much further.

(Step 1) We’ll start with the olive tapenade. For all you elaeophobes out there, this is a really good way of trying to brave the world of the olive.

Central Market has a deli section devoted solely to the olive where you purchase by the pound. My advice is to buy about a two cups worth of different olives that look good to you, but get the ones that have been pitted. They can be stuffed with pimento or just hollow, but not having to pit them yourself will be a great time saver.

Using a sharp knife, dice up two cups of olives to about a quarter-inch size and place in a mixing bowl. Add two tablespoons of minced Italian parsley to that, as well as two tablespoons of finely minced garlic, two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, three tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. With a spoon, gently stir to combine. Then set it aside so the ingredients start to marry.

(Step 2) Picking your bread needs some consideration. You want an artisanal loaf that isn’t too hard and crusty.

New Orleans-style muffuletta is made with a bread very similar to focaccia. It has the consistency of focaccia, but in loaf form.

Personally, I think it is a little bit too soft for this application especially since, around these parts, you can only find focaccia in slab form.

A nice ciabatta, or Wild Wheat’s “Pain Au Levain” (semi-soft rind loaf) will work really well. It should be noted that any bread will work great, but some breads work better than others.

With a sharp knife, cut the bread in half across the equator of the bread. Just be really careful with it and know exactly where your digits are at all times.

Then gently remove the inside of the loaf all the way until you almost get to the crust. Leave about an inch. The sandwich shouldn’t feel like you are eating a bunch of bread. It’s what you put in the middle that counts.

(Step 3) With all of your ingredients in front of you, you’re ready to construct your sandwich. With the bread halves laying in front of you, crust side down so the interior of the halves facing you, apply enough mayonnaise and a little bit of Dijon mustard (optional) to cover all of the inside of the bread. This is going to be the glue of the sandwich.

Next, on both halves, apply the olive tapenade to the surface of the mayonnaise that you spread onto the bread. The layer of olives doesn’t need to be very thick as you need it just for the flavor.

Then, with the bottom half of the loaf, start to layer your thinly sliced cold cut meats on until you have about a quarter of an inch coverage.

It’s worth noting here that you should not use meats that have been sweetened in certain ways. For example, stay away from honey-baked or brown sugar-glazed, as it not a good match for the Italian style you’re going after. Also, have your deli person slice the meat very thin. Preferred deli meats to use are: prosciutto, coppa, serrano ham, salami, regular ham, etc.

After that, begin layering the thinly sliced provolone or gouda cheese on top of that initial meat layer. Also worth noting: Use very thin slices of cheese.

Then start layering on some more cold cuts followed with another layer of cheese and so forth until you have about three layers of each.
Carefully place the top half of the loaf on top of the bottom stacked half so it looks like a gigantic hoagie.

Wrap the entire muffuletta with plastic wrap tightly. You can help this process out a little bit by compressing the entire loaf gently with your hands as you wrap it so that it is nice and tightly wrapped. Place the muffuletta in the refrigerator so that all of the ingredients get a chance to mingle a little bit.

(Step 4) After the sandwich has had some time to come together with all of its ingredients (about an hour, but it can sit for well over that) it’s time to slice and serve it to yourself or friends and acquaintances.

With the plastic removed, carefully slice off two-inch slices off the loaf and place on a plate.

Recipe Box

Ingredients you will need: Semi-soft artisanal loaf of bread, thinly sliced cold cut meat, thinly sliced mild cheese, pitted olives, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, olive oil, parsley and garlic.

Steps:
1. Make olive tapenade.
2. Choose your loaf of bread and cut it in half, lengthwise, along the equator.
3. Put the sucker together. Construct the sandwich with all of the ingredients you have assembled.
4. Allow your muffuletta to rest in the refrigerator. Cut and serve.
5. Enjoy.

-Martin Musialczyk

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