The Muffuletta Experiment!

It was February 5, 2017 and the ‘Food for Y’all’ gang had once again convened at my house for Super Bowl 51. A few years back we all agreed to beg off Super Bowl parties and enjoy the game as a family. This way….we can actually watch the game and not feel self conscience for our frequent trips to the buffet table!

Every year…we faced the same challenge. What can we eat at halftime that is both unique, tasty and easy to prepare? The goal….be finished eating and plates cleared by the time the third quarter kickoff is in the air. For the life of me…I can’t remember what we ate the first year of the gathering. The second year, my brother scored big when he sent away for an authentic ‘Chicago Dogs’ kit complete with Vienna Franks, that weird lime green relish, poppy seed buns and those little yellow peppers that go on top. Last year was a disaster when I tried to replicate the Original Beef Dip Sandwich from Felipe’s in Los Angeles (and no…I don’t want to talk about it!).

So this year I had to make up for it and I embarked on The Muffuletta Experiment! What sounds like a Dan Brown novel is actually my attempt to replicate the famous sandwich made popular at the Central Grocery Deli in New Orleans LA. For those of you not familiar with the famous sandwich, its one large round French loaf hollowed out and stuffed full with Italian cold cuts, Provolone or mozzarella cheese, moistened by an oil rich olive salad relish and pressed under weight for hours. It rivals the Po-boy as New Orleans favorite sandwich.

The experiment began by researching the Muffuletta on the internet. As you can imagine…my search returned hundreds of variations on the sandwich…all claiming to be based on the original and the best anywhere! Some hot….some cold…some using ciabatta bread, some using a regular french loaf, some press…some don’t, etc, etc. I finally settled on a recipe called ‘The Perfect Muffuletta’ from the AcadianaTable.com to use as my base standard. Following are the ingredients:

1 10-inch Round French Loaf with Seeds
2 cups Olive Salad
¼ lb Genoa Salami – thin sliced
¼ lb Italian Ham – thin sliced
¼ lb Mortadella with pistachios – thin sliced
¼ lb Provolone Cheese – thin sliced
½ cup Olive Oil

Having a base recipe was essential as my attempt to find an Italian deli in the OC which prepared and sold finished Muffuletta’s proved futile. The website ‘Chowhound.com’ had a full discussion on the subject but the only place that sold them was The Cheese Store in Beverly Hills (outside both my budget and my neighborhood)! So I was on my own to find all the good stuff needed to make my own ‘Perfect Muffuletta’.

My first stop was Claro’s Italian Deli in Tustin. I wasn’t worried about the cold cuts…there are plenty of good delis (including Claro’s) that could provide these. No….the two items that would make or break this sandwich was the bread and the olive salad dressing! I was pretty confident on a Tuesday morning when I entered Claro’s to buy a jar of olive salad. My confidence slowly ebbed away as my search of the shelves reveled no olive salad! The counter girl was no help so I left empty handed to try another option. Of all places…I found my jarred olive salad at Big Lots! I decided this product would need some doctoring so I bought some additional green olives and headed home.

Olive salad has a long list of ingredients including artichoke hearts, peppers, garlic, onions and pickled veggies. The olive salad I bought was a little too finely chopped so I poured half the jar into a bowl and added coarsely chopped green and kalamata olives along with additional garlic, fresh and dried oregano, pepper flakes and olive oil. This needed a few days to meld but it turned out great and I had to keep myself from taste testing it too much!

Now I had to find an Italian Round loaf around 10-inches with seeds. Claro’s did have a round loaf but it was just too big and had no seeds. I found the perfect size loaf by mistake when I was in the market and walked by the La Brea Bakery display. It could be easily cut in half and hollowed out so I decided to forego the seeds and proceed. I arranged with the store manager to bake one for me to pick up on Saturday morning. By that afternoon…I had all the cold cuts, bread and olive salad necessary to put together my ‘Perfect Muffuletta’! The fun began Sunday morning at 8:00AM…..

I started by slicing the Italian round loaf in half and coring out the bottom and top…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

After drizzling the bread with olive oil, I proceed to fill the bottom with one cup of Olive Salad, some pepper rings, about 1/3 lb of Genoa salami, a thin layer of mozzarella, and another 1/3 lb of Italian style ham….this is what it looked like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The layering continues with another 1/3 lb of Mortadella, and a new addition…a layer of hot capocolla and finally the provolone cheese on top:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I filled the top of the bread with another cup of olive salad and gently placed the crown on top of the masterpiece! You may have noticed that I deviated from the base recipe and added some mild pepper rings, a thin layer of Mozzarella and some hot capocolla. You can deviate anyway you wish…this is my sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now….all that’s left to do is wrap it well and press it under a heavy weight for at least two hours:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what it looked like after Lady Gaga finished her show and before Tom Brady started his!:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucky for me…they say it taste better the next day!  Now….what the hell are we gonna do for Super Bowl 52?

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