Putting the Muff in Muffaletta

Every 5 or so years, the Sports Gods look down from that sports bar in the sky and bless us with a great theme for the greatest food/sports combo know to man: The Super Bowl. New York is playing? Sausage and Peppers, Pizza. The Niners? Crab artichoke dip. Miami? Cubanos. Dallas or KC? BBQ.

You can count on the great city of New Orleans hosting the Big Game every 5 years or so, but this year, the year of our lord 2010, the often down-trodden yet extremely loveable Saints are actually playing in the Big Game, hopefully giving this great City a much deserved and karmically fitting championship.

What this means is an excuse to roll even harder with Etouffee, Gumbo, Po-Boys, Beingnets (sweet and/or savory), Jambalaya, Abita Beer, Hurricanes, Blackened Gator, fatty gulf oysters, beads, titties, the whole nine yards.  In honor of this city that had given so much to the global culinary landscape, today I choose to honor the Crescent City's Sicilian ancestry with a classic NOLA nugget, the Muffaletta.

How can anyone not love a something called a Muffaletta? Then when one realizes that this a briny delight of freshly baked bread, cured meats, provolone and some type of olive relish, we know that we truly have something special here.

For more history on this sandwich and where to indulge in one of every in the Big Easy, click here. I've eaten the famed sando at the Central Market and I'm pretty sure I can do it better. Yeah.


Making Muffaletta

Matt's Muffaletta:
Serves several.
Homemade Foccacia (by all means, store bought is fine, as is Ciabatta loaf or really and quality artisan loaf from a good source):

1 envelope (1/4-ounce) active dry yeast 
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F.)
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, whisk the yeast, sugar, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, warm water, and caramelized onions together for 2 minutes to dissolve the yeast. Add the salt and flour. With the mixer on low, mix until the dough starts to come together.

Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and crawls up the dough hook. Grease a mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Place the dough in the greased bowl and turn once. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place until the dough doubles in size about 1 1/2 hours.

Grease a half baking sheet pan (17 by 12) with 2 teaspoons of the oil. Turn the dough out onto a baking sheet. Punch the dough down and press the dough out to form the pan. Brush the dough with remaining 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Sprinkle the dough with kosher salt and sesame seeds.

Lightly cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 1 hour. Bake the dough for 30 to 35 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. 


Mixing Muffaletta

Olive Relish:

1 pint assorted olives from the olive bar - get pitted - it will save time. I also took a few marinated mushrooms because that's how I roll.
1 jar (12oz) roasted red peppers
1 jar (6.5 oz) marinted artichoke hearts
10-15 pepperoncinis
Generous pinch dried oregano

Small chop all ingredients, combine and let sit for at least 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before assembling sando.

Meats & Cheeses:

1/2 lb Provolone
1/2 lb Mortadella
1/2 lb prosciutto
1/2 lb Salame Toscano


Setting up the Muffaletta


Whatever bread you've chosen to use, slice it and stack your meats/cheeses/olive. It's not rocket science - you're making a sandwich. I prefer a layering technique - mortadella, cheese, spread, proscuitto, spread, cheese, salame, cheese, so the cross section looks more interesting.

After the meats, cheeses and olive salad are looking pretty, wrap your muff in plastic wrapand let sit for another hour before slicing.

Go Saints!!!!!!! 

AuthorMatt Haas

Nobody Doesn't Like Grilled Cheese - photo by BrittneyBush

It's winter and nothing is more comforting than grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.  I've been running into quite a few grilled cheese recipes in different places lately so I decided to consolidate some of the more unique ideas I've found for bringing one to life.

On Yahoo Food, there is a list of their 10 tips for making a great grilled cheese.  To paraphrase them: 1. Grate the cheese, instead of slicing it. 2. Use a lot of cheese.  3. Don't worry about cheese oozing out the sides.  4. No white bread (but who uses that anymore?).  5. Slice your bread thick (but who slices bread anymore?).  6. Smush the bread with a spatula.  7. Butter the bread (obvious).  8. Use salted butter (if you even have some, but who keeps that?).  9. Use a non-stick.  10. Cover the pan with a lid.

I think we can take this one step further.  From Saveur's Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich they declare simply, "The secret to making a perfect grilled cheese sandwich is cooking it over low heat, which brings out the subtle flavors of a cheese, and slathering the bread with butter, which crisps it in the pan."  

They also bring us our first tip:

1. Use Comté instead of the usual Cheddar.

2.  Use artesian or specialty breads like walnut bread, olive bread, etc.  Or, use the ubiquitous Ezekiel Sprouted Grain.  When you've only got two ingredients, bread and cheese, you can't skimp on either.

3. Spread mayo on the side of bread to fry instead of butter, this makes it crispier.  "Really?"  "Yes, it's wonderful."  Although I love my Miracle Whip, I wouldn't substitute it here.

4.  Add sliced tomato and some fresh basil inside.

5.  Add thinly sliced apples.

6.  Don't forget your salt and pepper.

7. Use a really piquant mustard, like Philippe's, or try a A World of Mustard Collection.

8. Put a slice of roasted red bell pepper inside, mmm.

9.  Simultaniously use two really hot cast iron pans and use the bottom of one to squish and fry the top of the grilled cheese while it rests in the other.  This is a great technique for banging out a large quantity of sandwiches in half the time.

10. Make it with an iron.  "Set your iron to the highest setting, usually cotton."



- Dave Koch

Authordavid koch