Tuesday, December 12, 2017


My not-quite-a-muffuletta:

This is not
The greatest 'wich in the world:
This is just a tribute...

—apologies to Tenacious D

The muffuletta is a sandwich invented over a hundred years ago by an Italian immigrant, Salvatore Lupo ("Savior Wolf"—ha!), who worked in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The sandwich is named after the Sicilian bread that forms the sandwich's backbone: a large, sesame-covered loaf that is round when viewed from the top, and something like a pressed-down pain de campagne when viewed from the side. The loaf weighs about a pound and is roughly a foot wide. A single muffuletta sandwich is normally cut into quarters to yield four normal-sized wedge sandwiches.

Aside from the bread, a muffuletta normally has the following ingredients: olive salad, salami, ham, mortadella, Swiss cheese (i.e., Emmenthaler), and provolone. This places it squarely in the realm of American deli sandwiches, but instead of mayonnaise or mustard, the principal condiment is the olive salad. There are various takes on how to assemble the sandwich: for one thing, the composition of the olive salad seems to vary wildly. Some versions of the sandwich require that you dig out part of the bread so you can slop in a frightening amount of the salad; other versions do nothing more than slice the bread into two halves as with a standard sandwich. Some folks slap olive salad on just one slice of bread; still others load the salad onto both slices. Upshot: along with the bread, the salad is part of the sandwich's essence.

What you see above, Dear Reader, is at best a shadow, a faint echo, of a true muffuletta. At this point, I'd call what I made a mere "deli sandwich," or perhaps a "muffuletta-inspired deli sandwich." I don't know where, in this country, I can find the original Sicilian bread, so I've used Korean-made hamburger buns purchased at Costco. Instead of the essential olive salad, I made an olive tapenade as a spread for one slice of bread, and I made pesto for the other slice of bread (I think you can see both in the above photo). As for the meats: I found all three essentials—salami, ham, and mortadella—but I added pepperoni to the mix for a bit of extra flavor. I was unable to locate provolone and proper sliced Swiss, so I went with a block of Emmenthaler (which is the specific cheese from Switzerland that Americans mean when they talk about "Swiss cheese") and a Gouda-like Italian cheese called Fontal.

The sandwich I made tasted good. As I hoped, the olive spread didn't dominate the mix, which was my fear with the traditional olive salad (to be frank, that salad looks obnoxious to me). The pesto balanced out the mix, adding an unctuous aspect that counteracted the acidity of the tapenade. I'll be springing this sandwich on my coworkers on Tuesday for lunch. We'll see how well it's received. Fingers crossed.

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