When I want a sandwich, I don’t want a little turkey on bread. I either want chicken salad on a toasted croissant or I want muffaletta. Chicken salad is tempting fate with botulism and celery seeds. Muffaletta is pure NoLa goodness.
A little history, the Central Market in New Orleans supposedly invented the muffaletta sandwich, which is typically mortadella, salami, ham, provolone or swiss cheese on a 8″-12″ round loaf of bread. The real showstopper is the “olive salad” added to the top, which is chopped olives with giardiniera, garlic, herbs and oil. The sandwich is named after the bread – a soft italian loaf with sesame seeds baked into the top, however, it seems silly today to actually just buy the bread… The sandwich is so much better. According to the daughter of the original owner of the Central Market, her father served bread, meat and cheeses to Italian immigrant farmers coming to the market to sell vegetables. Necessity being the mother of invention and all, the sandwich was more portable and easier to eat, rather than balancing the ingredients on one’s lap.
I learned to make a Muffaletta sandwich when I worked as a teenager at the now-defunct Opera House cajun restaurant in Pecatonica, IL. I remember the chef weighting the sandwiches down with gallon-sized metal cans of tomato sauce. I never remember seeing any of the tomato sauce get used in the restaurant – I think the cans were there because they were the right size and weight to make a great muffaletta.