This iconic New Orleans Sandwich is easy to recreate so you can enjoy a taste of the Big Easy at home.
What’s a dream vacation for you? Toes in the sand? A book a day poolside? Museums and art exhibits? Well, no big surprises here, but my perfect vacation has the holy trinity…food, drink and music. And I just got back from my mecca, New Orleans.
This wasn’t my first time in New Orleans, but it was the first with my kids. Admittedly, at first I was doubtful that we could pull off a G-Rated PG-13 vacation in the Big Easy, but it turns out it was more than doable. Not only did we eat our faces off (more on that to come), but we were literally busy morning, noon and night.
When we arrived we dropped our bags (okay, okay I neatly unpacked all of us), changed into shorts and ventured into the French Quarter. As luck would have it our spring break coincided with the French Quarter Festival. A stage was erected in Jackson Square and others throughout the quarter and local bands belted out everything from the blues to jazz to zydeco. Stands were set up selling local bites and we were immediately immersed in everything I love about New Orleans…delicious excess.
Over the course of the week we walked all over the French Quarter, the Garden District and Frenchman Street. We hopped on a streetcar, hit the swamps, toured the World War II Museum, and browsed the markets. We toured the cemeteries (even one for pets), walked through a very creepy haunted house and even wrangled a preview to a haunted museum not yet open to the public.
And we ate. And we ate. And then we ate some more.
We had plates of powdered sugar doused-beignets and big cups of café au lait at Café du Monde, shrimp and grits and Bloody Marys at Muriel’s jazz brunch and giant biscuit sandwiches at Mother’s. Our favorite meal was eating just about everything on the menu (and I’m not even kidding) and just about every part of the pig at Cochon. We loved it so much, that we actually went back for our final meal. Their mac n’ cheese was declared other-worldy by my son and now I’m tasked with trying to recreate it at home. Fingers crossed that I’ll even come close.
My kids tried things that I never imagined they would consider….turtle bolongese, rabbit stew, crawfish, gumbo, and alligator bites. I came this close to getting my son to try fried chicken livers, but that is where he drew the line. There were Pimm’s Cups (for me) and pralines (for the kids). And of course no trip is complete without a muffuletta sandwich from the Central Grocery.
This iconic NOLA sandwich can be found on many menus throughout the city, but for me it’s Central Grocery (where it originated) or nowhere at all. This simple sandwich is rich in history as are so many things in New Orleans. Back in the early 1900’s, Sicilian farmers would eat a very traditional lunch of meats, cheese, bread and olives, but this wasn’t always the easiest meal to eat on a quick break. It eventually evolved into the muffuletta sandwich where those meats, cheese and olive salad are stuffed inside two halves of muffuletta bread…much simpler for lunch on the go.
Now up in Jersey we don’t have muffuletta bread <sigh> but never fear, because a rustic loaf of white or sesame bread will substitute just fine. You can also use a prepared olive spread but I’m really going to encourage you to make your own. You can dial up the pepperoncini, dial back the anchovy and add any mix of your favorite olives (I like a mix of kalamata, marinated Sicilian green olives and oil cured). The only real work in this recipe is to make the olive spread and once you have all of your ingredients lined up, you’ll be on to sandwich layering in minutes.
Spring break in New Orleans may now only exist in our memories (and my hips), but now we can enjoy a little bite of the Big Easy at home. Thanks NOLA for a great time…you never disappoint and I’m already dreaming of our next trip.
- 1 - 1 lb loaf white peasant bread or sesame bread
- 1/3 lb Genoa salami or soppresata
- 1/3 lb Italian-style cooked ham
- 1/3 lb provolone cheese
- Olive spread
- 3/4 cup mixed marinated pitted olives I like kalamata, green Sicilian and oil cured
- 1/3 cup chopped pepperoncini
- 1 Tbsp sliced sweet pimientos
- 1 Tbsp capers
- 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
- 1/2 tsp celery seed
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Olive spread: Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Don't over process, you want this salad to be chunky, not smooth.
Alternatively, you can mince or chop all of the ingredients and stir well to combine.
Muffuletta Sandwich: Slice the bread in half and spoon the olive spread over the cut side of both halves.
On top of the olive spread on the bottom half, layer the salami, then the cheese, then the ham. Place the other half on top, olive side down. Cut into wedges and serve.