Tag Archives: Central Grocery

THE MUFFULETTA AND THE CENTRAL GROCERY IN NEW ORLEANS

A while back I posted a recipe for olive salad that approximates the one that is used at the Central Grocery in New Orleans. Then I started reading Yelp reviews (which I try to avoid at all costs) and recipes on the Internet. All of that inspired me to write about what is said to be the “Original Muffuletta” and the Central Grocery.

First, there are Yelp complaints that the Central Grocery is dirty. C’m’on folks, the store is on Decatur Street in the Vieux Carre (the French Quarter). It is as old and as down at the heels as all of the other buildings in the neighborhood. At least one history says that the store was founded in 1906. It has probably operated non-stop ever since, except during severe hurricanes. Besides, a visit gives you the opportunity to wander the aisles and see some amazing food choices, like Bombay duck – not a duck at all, but rather a long dried fish with fearsome eyes and teeth – sticking out of a barrel,  and Italian delicacies hard to find elsewhere.

Then, some yelpers complain about rudeness of the men who make the sandwiches. I guess those reviewers have never been to Katz’s or Russ and Daughters on East Houston in Lower Manhattan. It is true that you need to be ready to order when you get to the front of the line, but the men are as friendly as I would be if I made sandwiches all day long.

Some recipes on the Internet call for lettuce or tomato. That doesn’t work, because then the sandwich becomes a sub or a hero. Some say that there are better versions elsewhere. I don’t know about that, but remember that the original is the original. The only place I know of that has a comparable sandwich is Fertitta’s in a seedy part of Shreveport, LA. Fertitta’s calls its sandwich “the Muffy”, and they make claims to being the original.

Whichever, the tale about the Central Grocery is that around 1906, Italian workers started coming to the grocery with lunches of cheese and meat. The owner of the Central grocery suggested putting the lunches in loaves of muffuletta, a Sicilian bread, and the muffulletta sandwich was born. Probably apocryphal, but it makes a good story.

These days the sandwich is sold as a whole or a half, and the whole is cut into fourths before being wrapped in butcher paper.  That’s really enough for four people, but many customers eat the whole thing. The paper gets olive oil stains all over, and that’s when you know the sandwich is ready to eat. Boxes and barrels are used as seats and  scattered around the crowded store, but you probably want to take a brief walk to Jackson Square and enjoy your lunch al fresco on a sunny day.

Bread. To me, the bread is an essential part of the successful muffuletta. The loaves at the Central Grocery are delicious, and in my experience only available in Louisiana, especially New Orleans. Schlotzky’s makes a reasonable substitute. Recently I discovered that the 9 inch focacchia loaf from Panera Bread makes another suitable choice.

Meat. You can choose whatever you like. Mortadella – a good mortadella and not plain “baloney” – is almost a requirement as is salami (I used Genoa). Ham is also important. A good Italian coppacola is my favorite, but any thinly sliced delicatessen-style ham can be used.

Cheese. Provolone and/or mozzarella are classic choices.

RECIPE

Central Grocery Style Muffuletta

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf, Panera Bread loaf, split in half
  • 1 batch Louisiana olive mix
  • ½ pound each, mortadella, salami, and ham
  • ¼ pound Provolone or mozzarella

Method

  1. Spread the cut halves of the bread generously with olive salad mix
  2. Add generous layers of meat and cheese and top with the top half of the bread loaf.
  3. Cut in four quarters. One quarter should serve most adults.

16 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants

EATING MY WAY THROUGH SAN FRANCISCO – b. PATISSERIE

It is hard to say enough good things about the b. Patisserie. This French-style bakery has been open only a short time , but it has already collected a lot of awards and a big following. It is located in Pacific Heights/Laurel Heights at 2821 California Street. The chef/owner, Belinda Leong, a friend of Sarah and Evan, is an experienced pastry chef with many awards. She is formerly the pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos, CA and has also spent time in the fabled Parisian patisserie, Pierre Hermé.

The main attraction of b.’s is, of course, sweet pastry in the French style, but there is also a wide selection of granolas, mousses, quiches, and tartines so you can enjoy a nice lunch or snack with dessert. There ae pln†y of tables inside as well as some comfortable chairs outside. If you prefer, you can have it all packed in a box to take home, but then you have to forego the very interesting people watching.

There is a wide selection of croissants from plain (Is there such a thing as a “plain” croissant?) to a completely decadent chocolate, banana-almond version that is filled with a velvety banana cream.

The kouign amann is a wonder. Made of a light dough (I think it is puff pastry) and shaped like an opening flower bud, the outside is a caramelized brown, crisp and glistening with sugar crystals, reminiscent of a palmier. Break open the petals and the inside is filled with a nectar from the transformed sugar inside. You will need extra napkins even if you eat it with a fork.

The passion fruit-flavored bostock is redolent of almonds and the wonderful scent of passion fruit. The creamy little cake is so elegant and so flavorful.

When we visited, it was lunch time, so I ordered a muffuletta tartine. If you have been to New Orleans, you probably have had a muffuletta from the Central Grocery in the French Quarter where it is said the sandwich was invented more than a hundred years ago. The original is served on a giant Italian bread roll with provolone, salami and cappicola. The thing that really makes it a muffuletta and different from other subs, heroes, and po’boys, though, is the unique “olive salad” rich with garlic, olive oil, chopped olives, and pickled vegetables.

Belinda’s muffuletta nails the flavors of the original, including the olive salad. But it is so much more: served on a thin slice of flavorful toasted French bread slathered with olive salad, covered with Black Forest ham, Genovese salami, and mortadella topped with provolone melted under the salamander. Only one word: delicious.

To help you make your own muffuletta, either like the original or as a tartine, I am providing you with one of our family secrets, a recipe for olive salad that we collected when we lived in Louisiana and have subsequently included in our family cookbook.

RECIPE

Louisiana Olive Salad

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup chopped green olives
  • 2/3 cup chopped black olives
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped pimiento
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 anchovy filet, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients
  2. Let stand over night at room temperature.
  3. Use a generous serving when making a muffuletta.
Louisiana olive salad

Louisiana olive salad

 

6 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants, Travel