Celebrate Mardi Gras with this sandwich

Mitch Mariani

Mardi Gras is around the corner and I feature a recipe quintessential to New Orleans this time of year. I was torn on which recipe I would feature this week, but after much consideration, I decided to part with one of my “secret” recipes.
When I shared the New Orleans Shrimp Stew last year, I mentioned the muffuletta sandwich; made famous at Central Grocery in New Orleans. This little gem of a neighborhood store was started in 1906 by Sicilian immigrant and sandwich inventor, Salvatore Lupo. As an interesting side note, the grandmother of my grandmother I often mention in my column was also the owner of a little neighborhood store in New Orleans.
I came to know of the muffuletta sandwich through my mom, who lived in New Orleans for a time. Although it had been some time since she was in New Orleans, her memory of it assisted me in recreating our muffuletta. The toughest and most key part to make is an olive “salad,” which is mainly comprised of olives and pickled vegetables. This mixture gives the sandwich a unique flavor.
Until recently, I did not know how close I was to the original sandwich. Just before my Mardi Gras party one year, a family member visited Central Grocery for the muffuletta. She said mine was spot on!
The only sandwich ingredient that can be difficult to find is the large flat loaf of bread with sesame seeds. I discovered telera rolls, which are an acceptable substitute. Sometimes I make the muffuletta a hot sandwich on a baguette and cut it into smaller appetizer portions. Just wrap it in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
Makes 24 quarter sandwiches
Ingredients for Olive Salad
• 6 ounces dry weight can pitted green olives, drained
• 16-ounce jar Mezzetta Italian Mix Giardiniera, drained
• 2 tablespoons capers
• 1/3 cup pepperoncini, destemed & deseeded
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Step 1: Remove any pit fragments from olives. Add ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the contents are a course chop. Refrigerate for three days, stirring occasionally. Unused portions may be used up to one month.
Ingredients for sandwich
• 6 telera rolls or other round rolls
• 1 pound sliced baked or black forest ham
• 1 pound sliced Genoa salami
• 1 pound mortadella
• 1 pound sliced provolone
• 1 pound sliced mozzarella
• Olive oil
• Olive salad
Step 1: Cut telera rolls in half at the equator and lay out an assembly line. Drizzle the top and bottom halves of the rolls with a little olive oil, followed by a generous helping of the olive salad.
Step 2: Layer the meats and cheeses on the rolls, making sure the two cheeses are between meat layers. Wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. To serve, place four toothpicks in the sandwich and cut into quarters.

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