This truly is the KING of ALL SANDWICHES..
Some may disagree, but I will argue this to the end, the Muffuletta is in a sandwich world of it's own. Oh yah, I'll put this baby head to head with your Philly Cheese Steak, your wimpy little Pannini or even it's neighbor and close relative,the Louisiana PoBoy...
It is a sacred delicacy that stands on the proverbial sandwich podium and looks down on all the other pathetic little lunchtime snacks. Helloooo Mr. Meatball Hero, Hi there Senor Torta, What's Shakin' Mr. Italian Sub .... Nice to see you all down there there in the bottom of the deli case, WHERE YOU BELONG!!!!!
You can trace the Muffuletta (pronounced "muff-uh-LOT-uh."), back to 1906 when Salvatore Lupo, the Sicilian owner of Central Grocery in New Orleans first created this masterpiece. He referred to it as the Muffuletta because that is the actual name of the crusty Italian loaf of bread that it's made with.
OK, for those of you unfortunate souls who are not familiar, here is the Muffaletta Magic in a nutshell..
A round loaf of crusty Italian bread, sliced horizontally and hollowed out. Both top and bottom of the bread covered generously with a marinated olive spread. A tepenade of sorts, made with an array of pickled olives, roasted peppers and lots of garlic. This is the key element to the entire thing.
Then, the layering begins.... You start by building up the layers of charcuterie including thinly sliced ham, mortadella, salami, provolone, pressing down each layer in a tightly compacted stack of yummi-ness.
The secret is what comes next. The entire stuffed loaf must then be wrapped tightly in plastic or cheese cloth and refrigerated over night. What happens is an amalgamation like you could never imagine. All of the pickled and smoked ingredients inside this wonderful loaf, come together and become a sum greater than it's parts. The only way to cut it is just like a pie.....
Well, Salvatore Lupo is long gone, but the legend of the Muffaletta lives on. The Central Grocery still serves it up, just it has for over 100 years. In fact, the entire city of New Orleans has embraced it as their Official Sandwich for many years. You can find all sorts of variations around town and many of them even rival the Original.
In my house, we save the Muffaletta for those special occasions. 4th of July, Superbowl, Easter Week. I always make at least three at a time and reluctantly give a wedge or two away to those lucky recipients who I know will appreciate the true beauty of this round mound of sandwich-ness.
So if you are ever in The Big Easy, you will know where to find the Muffaletta. If my description of it sounded to good to wait for, here is a great Italian twist on the original that I know you will enjoy.
Grazia Signor Lupo for the blessing us all with your creation and Happy Birthday Mr. Muffuletta....
I love you!!
1/4 CUP RED WINE VINEGAR
2 GARLIC CLOVES, FINELY CHOPPED
1 TEASPOON DRIED OREGANO
1/3 CUP OLIVE OIL
10 LARGE PITTED GREEN OLIVES, CHOPPED
1/3 CUP KALAMATA OLIVES. CHOPPED
1/4 CUP ROASTED RED BELL PEPPERS
SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER
1 (1-POUND) ROUND BREAD LOAF (ABOUT 8-10 INCHES IN DIAMETER
5 OUNCES THINLY SLICED HAM
5 OUNCES MORTADELLA
5 OUNCES THINLY SLICED SALAMI
5 OUNCES THINLY SLICED PROVALONE CHEESE
1/2 RED ONION, THINLY SLICED
1 1/2 OUNCES ARUGULA LEAVES
In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, garlic and oregano to blend. Gradually whisk in the green and kalamata olives and roasted peppers. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Using a serrated knife, slice off the top inch of the bread loaf. Hollow out the bottom and top halves of the loaf. Spread some of the vinaigrette on the bread bottom. layer the meats and cheese in the bottom half. Top with Onion, then arugula. Spread the remaining vinaigrette on the cut side of the top, then replace the bread top.
The sandwich should be made a day ahead. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Cut into wedges and serve.