Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I am Eating a MUFFULETTA Today thanks to - SMOKEY MOUNTAIN CAFE

Greetings all... Today is my first full day of my New Orleans vacation! But last night was my first night of my New Orleans vacation... Which means I am in no shape to blog this morning. Fortunately, one of my favorite bloggers, Katherine from the SMOKEY MOUNTAIN CAFE blog has agreed to step in as guest blogger! Katherine is a Hurricane Katrina displaced native New Orleans resident who settled into East Tennessee! when she heard I was vacationing in her old home town, she offered to help me make the most of my trip. We exchanged several emails, and She gave me the best tip I could have ever gotten. During my last trip to the Big Easy, I fell in love with a sandwich. I had never had one like it before, and have not been able to find it since. But, I know that I was not having the "best". Read on as Bloggers help Bloggers, as Katherine directs me to the home (and the recipe) of the original and best ...

The MUFFULETTA SANDWICH is one of the great sandwiches of the world, and it's criminal that it can hardly be found anywhere outside the city of New Orleans
It's also a bit of a lesson to those who think the only cultural and culinary heritage of New Orleans is French, Spanish, African and Creole. You ask folks about the quintessential sandwiches of New Orleans, and many people will immediately reply "po-boy", but the muffuletta is as New Orleans as any po-boy you'll ever eat, and there's nothing Creole about it. This is pure Italian, and pure Sicilian if you want to be specific. New Orleans, in its population and its cuisine, owes much to Italy and especially Sicily; Italians have been coming to the Crescent City since the 1880s. It wasn't always easy for them -- one of the worst lynchings in American history was a massacre perpetrated upon a group of Italians in New Orleans in 1891.

The Italians soon settled in comfortably into New Orleans culture, and we are the richer for it. Their contribution to local culture and cuisine has been immeasurable; in fact, you frequently see "Creole-Italian" referred to as one of the local sub-cuisines. This kind of cooking is epitomized at places like Mandina's, Liuzza's, and the many places in the city that serve muffuletta sandwiches.
According to the tale I've heard, the muffuletta sandwich was invented by Signor Lupo Salvadore, who opened the now-famous little Italian market called Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter in 1906 and created the muffuletta sandwich, named for a favored customer (although I had also heard that the sandwich was named for the baker of the round Italian bread on which the sandwich is served).

You'll hear lots of New Orleanians pronounce the sandwich "muff-uh-LOT-uh", but I understand that the proprietors of Central Grocery pronounce it "moo-foo-LET-ta". The common abbreviation is "muff"; e.g., "I'll take me a half a muff."
Here are my favorite places in New Orleans to get muffulettas. If I have time, I'll stop at one of these places on the way back to Tennessee and pick up a muffuletta to eat in the car, it sure beats roadside fast food! As the olive salad aroma fills the vehicle, it really pisses off your fellow passengers too, which makes it even more fun since they voted for Burger Barn.

Central Grocery, 923 Decatur Street, French Quarter
The home of the muffuletta, and a must-visit. Many consider this to be the quintessential muffuletta in the city, and as great (and historically significant) as it is, these days I'll stand in line. Still though, if you've never been to Central, you've gotta go. Over the years the muffuletta operation has expanded greatly and limited the grocery store space; they have some indoor seating now for muffuletta lovers. Me, I like to take mine to go and eat it on a bench in Jackson Square or on the Moonwalk. They do a brisk to-go business, and big jars of olive salad are available for you to buy and take home. I like my muffuletta with a Barq's from their big Barq's machine in the back, even though it's not locally-made anymore

Make your own muffuletta!

This is not just a bunch of cold cuts and cheese. Anyone can make that. That's not to say that the meats and cheeses aren't important -- they are. You can get good quality Italian meats and cheeses in most good supermarkets, but you'd be better off at an Italian market (especially for the mortadella, which isn't always easy to find at a conventional supermarket.
To make this, you need two very important ingredients -- the bread, and the olive salad. In a pinch any good Italian bread will do, but for an authentic muffuletta you need a muffuletta loaf. It's round, usually sesame-seeded and about 10 inches in diameter. I'm told that many New Orleans muffuletterias (a new word I just made up) get their bread at Angelo Gendusa's bakery. If you want a Liuzza's-style "Frenchuletta", use a good light-bodied crispy-crusted French bread. Then ... the olive salad. The Holy Grail of sandwich fillings.
The olive salad recipe is the Number One single most-requested recipes.
While Central Grocery does not give out their muffuletta olive salad recipe, lots of folks have tried to duplicate it, with varying degrees of success.
New Orleanian cook and cookbook author Chiqui Collier was kind enough to share this recipe and says, "It is my pleasure to send you the recipe for the original muffletta sandwich that was created by the grandfather of a lady I worked with 28 years ago." (Presumably that was Signor Salvadore.)
"The recipe for the olive salad is the exact way it was given to me. It makes over a gallon! I'm sure if you’ve tasted it or when you taste it, you won't want to cut it down. It stores very well in the refrigerator for many months and makes great gifts along with the recipe for the sandwich.
  • For the olive salad:
  • 1 gallon large pimento stuffed green olives, slightly crushed and well drained
  • 1 quart jar pickled cauliflower, drained and sliced
  • 2 small jars capers, drained
  • 1 whole stalk celery, sliced diagonally
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1 small jar celery seeds
  • 1 small jar oregano
  • 1 large head fresh garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 jar pepperoncini, drained (small salad peppers) left whole
  • 1 pound large Greek black olives
  • 1 jar cocktail onions, drained
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pot and mix well. Place in a large jar and cover with 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 Crisco oil. Store tightly covered in refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.
  • For the sandwich:
  • 1 round loaf italian bread
  • 1/4 pound mortadella, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 pound ham, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 pound hard Genoa salami, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 pound Mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1/4 pound Provolone cheese,sliced
  • 1 cup olive salad with oil
Split a muffuletta loaf or a loaf of Italian bread horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and oil. Place meats and cheeses evenly on bottom half and cover with top half of bread. Cut in quarters. Enjoy!
Serves four timid dieters or two hearty New Orleanians. We don’t do Pilates in New Orleans, but you knew that didn’t you?

Dave again... Do me a favor and drop by Katherine's Cafe (THE SMOKEY MOUNTAIN CAFE) and thank her for being a guest blogger today. Eventually, everyone wants to and a lucky bunch of us will make it to New Orleans. Remember this local treasure and make a trip to the Central Grocery in the French Quarter to grab this sandwich.
Just a reminder, I am in the middle of the BIGGEST giveaway contest I have ever held... Coupons for 4, 15-oz bottles of POM WONDERFUL (your choice of flavors). Check my post from Sunday (you can get there by clicking HERE) for the details on how to win, but one of the important ways to enter is to go to http://smokymountaincafe.blogspot.com/ and leave a comment, then return here, and comment to me that you thanked Katherine for her guest blog. You will get one entree for each of my guest bloggers you thank for giving me a blog vacation. On Sunday, I will select one commenter to win this terrific prize!
And one last thanks to NOLA CUISINE (http://www.nolacuisine.com/) for the use of the terrific photos in this post.


  1. I have loooong wanted to try this delicious sandwich. Oh, my mouth is watering for this! Katharine, thank you so very much for posting this. I'm saving this to enjoy to its fullest (and my fullest, grins!).

  2. I had one at a now closed New Orleans style deli in Michigan.. I loved it, and can only imagine having one from it's home!

  3. Love Katherine's blog!! She's an amazing cook. And....so very very jealous about the Muffuletta.....they are hands down my favourite sandwich ever! Hope you are having fun!

  4. Oh my gosh, YUM! I love Muffaletta! I could totally go for a big, monster sammie like this right now :D

  5. Yummy! That sounds really good right now.I hope you have a wonderful time on your New Orleans vaca!

  6. I want one of those too. Please :)

  7. We are traveling to New Orleans in the spring to see my moms family and I cannot wait to take a bite out of one of these...great job Katherine! Cool to find out that you are from there...

  8. I'm not a big olive fan, but I would totally try that. It sounds wicked good.

  9. I adore Kathering, isn't she just great! I am glad you are enjoying your trip so far! and I would eat that sammy in a minute!

  10. Yep- I had one in NOLA the year before Katrina hit. It was DELICIOUS. DROOL-WORTHY. I WANT ANOTHER!!!!

  11. The sandwich looks wonderful!

    Grill.... Have a great vacation!

  12. I have heard so much about this epic sandwich, though the olive salad has several ingredients in it that don't appeal to me. One day I'll have to try it out just so I can say I've had one, though!

    Hope you're having a great time, Dave!

    Thanks for the post, Katherine!

  13. man you did an excellent job on this! this is info I can wrap my lips around...

  14. I saw these on the Food Network! They looked absolutely delicious! Thanks Katherine for the recipe!

  15. Katherine- Great post about one of my faves! Love that olive salad and the mortadella. I've eaten at Cedar Grocery many times. Cest bon, cher!

    Dave- Have a Muff for me!

  16. LOVE Muff! Had my first one at Central Grocery years ago. I even order their olive salad for my "fake" ones! Katherine did great as always!

  17. Great Guest blogger!! Katharine you have me making my list to make the olive salad!! The sandwich sounds so delectable and filling! I just can't wait. AND you think the olive salad last for a long time?? Thanks for sharing.

  18. Thanks for all of your support. Maybe we can take a group blogger field trip and got get us some muffalettas!

  19. Great post, Katherine! I knew you'd do something great like this.

  20. Great sandwich and when I lived in N.O. you can bet this made for many a meal for me! Usually one half would last me for a couple of days.

    I popped over and left a comment thanking Katherine for guest posting for you also!

  21. Yum! Muffalettas are delish! Hope you're having fun in NOLA, Dave :)