One of the greatest traditional food items to come out of New Orleans is the muffaletta sandwich. Central Grocery is renowned for theirs, but you can also taste a fine one on the café menu at Napoleon House on Chartres in the French Quarter. Napoleon House gets its name from the fact that in 1821 it was offered as a residence to Bonaparte during his exile. Being an unapologetic Bonapartist myself, my recipe title is a tribute to Boney. Now let’s see if he shows up for lunch. The primary components of the sandwich are ham, salami, provolone cheese, and topping of olive salad, all packed onto a crusty round loaf. The olive salad should be generous but it should not overwhelm your pork product.
Because it’s difficult to find the proper Italian-style round bread loaf outside of New Orleans, you might want to think about doing as I prefer and make your own. But what you really want is a good-sized round and crusty Italian loaf. The ingredients indicated here for the olive salad will produce enough for two sandwiches this size. To serve, you can/should halve or quarter the assembled muffaletta. —pierino
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Pierino is a trusted source on general cooking and tough love.
WHAT: If Napoleon had eaten muffaletta sandwiches, this would have been his recipe of choice.
HOW: Make a chunky olive salad in the food processor and let it rest in the refrigerator. Cut a large Italian-style roll “hamburger-style” and smear it with mustard. Top with ham, capicola, provolone, and a generous amount of the olive mixture. Gather a crowd and some napkins.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Can’t get to New Orleans for an authentic muffaletta when the craving strikes? Don’t worry -- pierino’s recipe brings the classic sandwich straight from the streets of the French Quarter into your own kitchen. Make extra olive salad to eat as a snack the next day. —The Editors
For the olive salad:
Spanish pimento olives
pitted black olives (Kalamatas work fine)
4 to 6
cloves garlic (see note below)
dried Italian oregano
extra-virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
ground black pepper
For the sandwich components:
6-ounce crusty Italian roll
A little creole mustard
thinly sliced premium cooked or cured ham (even prosciutto or jamon Serrano)
thinly sliced capicola (as the name suggests, this is most often made from pig neck)
sliced provolone cheese
In This Recipe
It’s easy to make the olive salad in the bowl of a food processor using the olives, cornichons, garlic, oregano, olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper. Give everything a few quick pulses. It should remain a bit chunky -- somewhat more coarse than a tapenade.
Spoon the olive salad into a non-reactive bowl and cover it with cling wrap. It should then go into the refrigerator to rest for at least 5 to 8 hours, and it will keep overnight.
To assemble, use a sharp bread knife to divide the loaf into two halves horizontally like a giant hamburger bun. Smear some mustard on the bottom half and top with ham, capicola, provolone, and a generous amount of olive salad. Cover with the top portion of the roll and divide into halves or quarters. Bring napkins.
Notes to the cook: For the garlic, I use a “garlic confit” that I learned from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook. What that consists of is about 40 peeled cloves of garlic covered in canola oil and poached for about forty minutes -- a flame tamer is advised. Store the garlic and oil in a sealed container in the refrigerator. After a few days the oil will be highly perfumed. I think the little Corsican would like that touch. It’s handy to have on hand and you can add a little of the oil to the salad. Otherwise, use fresh garlic cloves.
The cornichon included in the olive salad is untraditional but one of my New Orleans friends really liked it, so I think it really works. Don't be stingy with the olive salad.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.