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- There are four main components to a muffeletta: bread, olive salad,
- meat, and cheese.
The Bread The perfect po-boy is all about the bread. If you use good French bread, everything else tends to fall into place. While the bread is important for a muffeletta, the other ingredients are equally important. Good French bread can mask inferior ingredients on a po-boy, but bad olive salad is bad olive salad, and nobody's Italian loaf is going to disguise that. The three big bakeries for muffeletta-style Italian loaves are United Bakery on St. Bernard in Gentilly, Leidenheimer's on Simon Bolivar in Central City, and Gendusa's on N. Rampart. All three of these do excellent bread. You can buy United's loaves at grocery stores all around the metro area and Gendusa's at Italian groceries like Nor-Joe's in Metairie. Leidenheimer's makes most of their Italian loaves for restaurants and other commercial customers. The average Italian loaf is 10"-12" in diameter. Leidenheimer's makes an 8" individual loaf that many places use as well. The Olive Salad In New Orleans we order our sandwiches either "dressed" or with "nutinonit," meaning that they either have lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise, or none of these things. (For more on "dressed" and other New Orleans terms, check out The Yat Lexicon at http://www.yatcom.com/neworl in the Lifestyle section.) One dresses a muffeletta, but not with the traditional po-boy fixings. A muff has Italian Olive Salad on it, in generous quantities, with lots of extra virgin olive oil drizzled over both salad and bread. Italian Olive Salad is a mixture of green olives, black olives, carrots, cauliflower, and herbs, all marinated in red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Fortunately for those of us who don't want to attempt making our own olive salad, Central Grocery now sells their own by the jar. That's not the only place that makes a good olive salad, of course, but it's the one I know is available from various places on the 'net. The Meats There are three meats usually found on a muffeletta sandwich: Ham -- I would suppose that muffs in earlier days were made with Prosciutto or some other smoked ham, but these days you'll find regular boiled ham on 'em (that's expensive enough at $5-$6 a pound). Salami -- This is usually "hard" or Genoa salami, as good a quality as you can get (domestic is OK here, of course). Mortadella -- The premier sausage meat from the city of Bologna, mortadella is essential to the classic muff. It's important to realize, however, that mortadella is not the same as the bologna you buy in the grocery. Don't substitute that Oscar Meyer stuff for mortadella--your bread will never forgive you. You'll need about 1/2 pound of each for a 12" muff loaf. Don't panic on the quantity--this makes a loaf that can serve 2-4. Cheese Mozzarella and Provolone, and you'll need 1/4 pound each. Again, domestic OK, go with as good a quality as you can find/afford. Assembly of the Loaf Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Slice the loaf into top and bottom halves, and heat them for 2-4 minutes in the oven. When the bread is warm and lightly toasted, you're ready to assemble the sandwich. Place the mozzarella on one side, the provolone on the other, and allow the heat of the bread to melt the cheese. Begin laying out the meat on the bottom half. There's no special order here. I usually do salami, then mortadella, and then ham. Spoon the olive salad onto the top half, being sure you drizzle a good bit of the olive oil from the salad onto the bread. (If the olive salad you purchase is light on liquid, add some of your own extra virgin olive oil to it, then dish that up.) What happens next depends a great deal on who's making the sandwich. Some folks like their muff thoroughly heated, where others are content to simply put the two halves together and go from there. As mentioned in the introductory article, the big danger with heating the entire sandwich is the increase in oiliness. You're dealing with three meats that will get greasy when heated, and you've already heaped a good bit of olive oil onto the bread. Heating those meats up will increase the grease content, but if you like a hot sandwich, so be it. I prefer to use meats that are at room temperature rather than straight out of the 'fridge, and let the heat from the bread do the rest. Of course, if you want a cold (non-heated) muff, there's no controversy--just put the thing together and go for it. When everything is assembled, cut into quarters and serve.
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