Purporting to tell you how to make a muffuletta sandwich is, as far as I am concerned, like giving you paint-by-number instructions on painting your own Sistene Chapel ceiling. I do not want anyone to think they are leaving here with the ability to craft a genuine muffuletta outside of New Orleans. It’s one of those bread things like sourdough in San Francisco or bagels in New York. That said, I am about to get you pretty darn close, and to do so in a way that is galley-friendly…that ain’t nothin’. So, Michelangelo, let’s go down below and get cookin’.
In 15 minutes in a rockin’ galley underway on the Gulf, I’m going to mimic the world’s greatest sandwich. The real thing involves a muffuletta loaf (for which the sandwich is named…more on that later), olive salad, and layers of mortadella, salami, ham, mozzarella, and provolone cheese. Hit the high notes and don’t stress. Here that translates to using ham, turkey, and provolone lunchmeats from the grocery aisle vs. the gourmet deli.
High note number one: OLIVE SALAD, AND PLENTY OF IT. Captain Peter taught me this…there is no such thing as enough paper towels, or olive salad. Now, Louisiana olive salad is something special…we ship it to inlaws in living in Turkey. But in a pinch, you can make your own quite simply. We discovered this traversing the Erie Canal when bringing our boat home from Lake Michigan. There’s a brilliant Italian market in Buffalo, NY where we provisioned…seeing a big jar of olives next to another of gardiniera (pickled carrots, cauliflower, celery and pepperoncini available in most grocery store olive-shelf-aisles) a plan was born. In this case, I hit the olive bar of my local grocery and filled a pint with a mix of olives, some oil-cured garlic cloves, some pickled cherry peppers, and artichoke hearts.
Dump the whole pint unceremoniously into your food processor with a quarter to half-cup of olive oil (depending on the oil content of your mix…also add salt, pepper, and a bit of fresh or dried oregano if your mix isn’t well seasoned) and grind it all up…
Et voila…MAGIC. You are now victoriously on the way to the-best-muffuletta-esque-sandwich-outside-of-New Orleans.
High note #2: the bread…a New Orleans muffuletta loaf is a big, round loaf, lighter and fluffier than your average french bread, but still hearty enough to carry a lot of meat, cheese, and magic olive salad. They also have sesame seeds on top, and the most important thing — can I say it again? — is as much olive salad as you can fit on a sandwich, so I err on the side of a soft, flat-ish loaf where there won’t be a ton of bread-to-surface-area ratio…and if there is, pull some of the bread out of the crust and fill it with olive salad. We used the whole pint of olives and vegetables for two big sandwiches here. And pour any extra olive oil over it too!
Layer meats and cheeses…note that this doesn’t begin with “High note”…it’s not. Ninety-percent of the magic of a muffuletta is in the olive salad and bread…meat and cheese make it a meal, but use whatever you have. I like a meat-cheese-meat-cheese layering system to compensate for my lack of meat/cheese ambition with “texture” but salad is on loaf so you’re golden. You can also toast it quickly to soften the cheese if you’d like.
See? Simple and delicious. Five minutes at the grocery, 15 in the galley,and a Happy Captain dreaming of home in the Big Easy.