Recipe Thursday: Bread Book – Yankee Muffuletta

Picture a young northern couple road tripping from Manchester, Vermont to New Orleans, Louisiana in a urine yellow ’74 Valiant (which cost us $350) that looked like tinfoil that had been scrunched up and then attempted to smooth out, with a big dog and lots of CD’s (with a playlist of Nirvana, Harry Connick, Lyle Lovett, Indigo Girls, Fugazi, and of course Bjork) visiting everyone they knew down the East Coast – stopping in Springfield and Boston, MA then Staten Island and Jersey Shore, Pennsyltucky to a couple of weeks in Ellicott City, MD and stretches through the South. Fire Ants in Alabama (that remained in the edges of their car for months after), the ethereally bland and unleaveable town of Purvis, MS with many State Park campsites and roadside visitor centers, parking lots of Piggly Wiggly’s along with really getting to know each other punctuated our trip (only being together a bare 4 months – this was to be the pre-honeymoon). And then NOLA.

Yes, it’s us. We were immediately smitten with New Orleans, though very poor (as it took us almost 3 months to make it there, we had exhausted our savings). We imagined living there but with less than $200 to our names pickings were slim. We slept in the car most of the time – we got a room once but the only one we could afford was super sketchy – frogs in the shower, roaches in the sink, and a bed I wouldn’t pull down the blanket to sleep on the sheets (but the dog wasn’t allowed in!). We got drenched in the torrential surprise rains that lasted only 10 minutes, then dried in the hot air that followed. And we ate maybe 3-4 times out in the 2 weeks we stayed there…one time at a little family diner where I relished my grits (and J did not) and people who met us asked us if Vermont was in Canada. And another good time…

We were walking through the French Quarter, where we had perused leather shops, witch shops (they were hiring, I should have applied), and folks selling craft and artisan goods on the street. We had visited ‘free stuff’, a walking tour of the Garden District (I was using Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour as my guide, yes, really), one of the St. Louis cemeteries, and a series of disheartening apartments, live street music and dancers. One day we were starving and wandering the streets in the ‘Quarter where we stepped into a little grocery offering hot sandwiches. We tried to order two but the grocer told us to sit and he would serve us one and see if we needed another. Out came a magnificient full boule of bread filled with meats, cheeses, and olive salad – we had arrived to the experience of the Muffuletta and we didn’t even know it. For the first time we were sated.

Though our New Orleans fantasy didn’t work out for us (and perhaps for the better, perhaps not, I think we would have still eventually met our lovely musician friend Greg, now relocated to Spain via Austin, TX from NOLA but having started in VT – we miss you tons!) we’ve been trying to remap our Muffuletta. For me, the current secret is food processing our homemade Jardiniere with a mix of any kind of black and green olives (if we’re feeling flush and fancy, it’s Kalamatas and Greek green, if not it’s Manzanilla and canned Black, doesn’t matter), maybe some capers or extra canned artichokes or a handful of spinach and scapes (in season) (if you like spicy add a little red cherry pepper) and then a selection of nitrate-free deli meats like (Fiorucci) Salami, ham or turkey if that’s what we have (the kid did not care for Mortadella), definitely Provolone but maybe some Jack or Cheddar or even Muenster if that’s what’s in the fridge (though I could see a veggie happening with roasted eggplant or zucchini or faux bacon and faux cheese). We have a bit of a process to make it work – a preheat of meats/cheeses, a hollowing out of a boule, and a full foil wrap while baking to make it ‘come together’. We hope you like it.

Yankee Muffuletta
Serves 6, sanely

  • 1 Boule of delicious bread (hopefully a sourdough Panem Domus or Garlic or even a Parmesan Stone Broke Bread loaf), split into two flying saucer spherical halves. Hollow out the top half a bit (we like to use it as an appetizer, dipping it into the left over vinegar we drained from the Jardiniere).
  • 1 pint of (hopefully ;)) Rock Bottom Jardiniere, or a mix of jarred roasted red peppers, artichokes, cauliflower, or other pickles you prefer: whizzed in the processor for a minute to break down into small pieces, we prefer a slightly chunky tapenade – not smooth or big pieces, adding (if desired)
  • 1 jar and 1 can of Manzanilla and Black Olives (less from snacking, of course) or 10-12 ounces of pitted Greek Olives
  • other possible additions to whiz with the mix: spinach leaves, scapes or garlic, cauli or broccoli, that lost turnip or beet in the the drawer of the fridge, celery, carrots, fennel, onion, cucumber – drain mix if needed (this is a great place to add foraged goods, too – daisies, clover, burdock root – nothing too bitter or oxalic or sweet)
  • 1/4 lb sliced strong cured flavored deli meat like Salami or Capicola or even Prosciutto, or if vegetarian: slice an eggplant and/or zucchini/yellow squash thin and roast with a drizzle of olive oil at 375 degrees until satisfied with texture – I like about 20 minutes when the eggplant starts to carmelize with crispy edges but still has body, the zucc when it is golden – you’ll want about 1/2 lb cooked veg), Turkey bacon could work too, just cook first.
  • 1/4 lb mellow flavored deli meat like Mortadella, Turkey, or a mild ham (for veg, use more of eggplant/zucc or even a layer of spinach/chard/Tuscan kale to equal the 1/2 lb of meat)
  • 1/4 lb of sliced Provolone
  • 1/4 lb of other cheese (shredded Mozzarella or shredded/sliced Jack, Cheddar, Muenster)
  • glug of Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt & Fresh ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp dried or fresh Oregano (if dried, crush the herbs between your fingers to release the oils) (could also use Thyme, Marjoram, Rosemary, Tarragon, Savory, or Sage – or a mix of any/all)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center. Prepare a large baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper. Lay out a circle matching the bottom of the boule of strong meat onto the paper, then lay with one of the cheeses (or a circle of roasted eggplant/zucchini and cheese or faux cheese). Next to it on the same tray lay another circle of mellow meat and another cheese and heat until cheese is melted and meat is hot. Using a big spatula place one of the piles on top of the other (2 layers equaling meat/cheese/meat/cheese – though you could be extra decadent, keep the piles separate and put olive mix between them when building).

    Meanwhile, whiz up in a food processor the Jardiniere, olives, any extra selections, a little olive oil, herbs and salt and pepper to taste. When it resembles your desired texture you are ready to assemble the Muffuletta.

    Place the bottom of the bread boule on two sheets of crossed foil, spread a thin but decent layer of muffuletta olive mix across the bread then top with the circle of layered meat/cheese (or veg/cheese) then pile on a deeper layer of olive mix, then top with the hollow bread. (Which is best while singing the ‘spreading the muffuletta song’, as you can see by the image – ha!)

    Crush gently the whole sandwich with two hands (not enough that stuff squirts out the side but enough you hear the bread crack), then fold over the foil tightly and put on the baking tray.

    Bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit at least 10 minutes in the foil. Peel off foil and cut into large wedges.

    Serve with fresh Heirloom Tomato or Cucumber slices or wedges. Fridges well and is still absolutely delicious cold the next day (if there is any left).

Published by Rachael M Rollson

creative life-learner

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