Twelfth Night and Muffuletta

So maybe it isn't the best picture but it's the best one I had. A darn-close-to-New-Orleans-authentic Muffuletta with a side salad. The onions in the middle are definitely a Debbie & Harry thing and we just kind of prefer to warm it in the oven. This is honestly one of Harry's favorite meals and while the olive salad needs to be prepped at least one day before for the best flavor, putting the sandwich together takes no time at all.

So what's all this Twelfth Night stuff? Well, January 6 is an important date in religious customs, marking the Feast of the Epiphany. Christians celebrate the pronouncement that the baby Jesus is the savior from the Three Wise Men. It is written that the kings had traveled for 12 days before reaching Bethlehem, so with the establishment of December 25 as the "official" birthday, 12 days brings us to January 6.

In older times, Twelfth Night kicked off "the season" - weeks of parties and balls leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I think you can guess where I'm leading with this.

January 6 also marks the official beginning to the Carnival season that will end with Mardi Gras. In 2012, the season will be a little shorter than last year as Ash Wednesday falls on February 22 this year. So, there will be less time to celebrate the season with Muffuletta and King Cake (coming soon) and Po'boys and...

My preferred way to buy most of the ingredients for my Muffuletta olive salad is at the olive bar at the store. This recipe will make enough olive salad for two muffulettas and I've kept it in the fridge for up to a month. My friend Angie has a recipe for homemade Italian Giardiniera for home canning and it really is quite easy and quite good.

You don't have to chop the olives and all of the other ingredients super-small. It might look as though I've filled 12-cup food processor, but our model has a mini-bowl that sits on the top of the big bowl. For me, it works perfectly. This is one of the rare times that Harry will let me use "his" food processor.

All mushed up! I pulse 4 or 5 times and use my spatula to scrape it down a bit after the third time.

Parsley, oregano and red pepper flakes. I use about a quarter teaspoon and it adds a nice spice without adding a lot of heat. Of course, if you're allergic to red pepper leave it out.

Here's that funky color again! I've mixed together the minced olives, vegetables, spices and red wine vinegar, then added enough extra virgin olive oil to cover it - about one cup.

Yep - smear the olive salad all over the sliced Muffuletta bread as thick as you like. These are vegetables that Harry will willingly eat because they don't taste green.

Now it's time to play Picasso - alternate layers of the meats and cheeses. We put the sliced onion rings in the middle - it adds a nice crispness and sweetness in the middle of all that meat!

Unwrapped after 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. The cheese is melted at the edge, the bread is nice and warm and it's OH SO GOOD! Yes, we made the bread - same recipe as the Hoagie Rolls we made on Bread Day but I cut it in half. Traditional NOLA-style dictates sesame seeds on top but we just sort of leave them off. Also - you don't have to bake your own bread. I will admit to a substitute a few times and if you aren't in NOLA, most local bakeries don't sell the traditional bread. Go to the store and buy a round Italian loaf - it's usually sold in the paper bags in the bakery. We cut the top inch or so off before we slice it in half, just to reduce the thickness.

Harry has had an insanely killer week at work - strange considering he had Monday off for the holiday. I think I'll have Dad run me to the store this afternoon so I can get the Muffuletta ingredients. I can make the olive salad tonight while I'm fixing something fast for dinner. Then, Harry can have his favorite meal after working all day on Saturday!

What a way to kick off Carnival!

Olive Salad for Muffuletta

5 cloves garlic, quartered
1 cup green olives, pitted (pimiento-stuffed are fine)
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted
1 cup Giardiniera, drained and gently chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained (I prefer the small capers)
1/4 cup cocktail onions, drained
1 whole roasted red pepper, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil (approximately)

Combine the garlic, olives, Giardiniera, capers, cocktail onions and roasted red pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel chopping blade. Pulse 4-6 times, stopping to scrape a couple of times, until the ingredients are well minced but not a paste. (Alternatively, you can mince everything on a cutting board with a very sharp knife and mix together - it tastes just as good!)
Add the spices and red wine vinegar and stir well to combine.
Add enough olive oil to cover the salad and stir well.
Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. I've kept this olive salad in the refrigerator for up to a month and trust me, it taste much better later than sooner.

Debbie & Harry's Almost-NOLA-style Muffuletta

1 loaf Muffuletta Bread or round Italian bread, sliced across the middle
One-half recipe of Olive Salad
4 ounces Genoa salami or sandwich pepperoni
4 ounces Capicola ham (spicy)
4 ounces regular ham (OK, for truly authentic you need Mortadella but we don't care for what's available here)
4 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
4 ounces sliced provolone cheese
1 sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay the two bread halves on a large piece of foil and smear them liberally with the olive salad. Layer the meat and cheese, alternating at each level. We use the onion rings as the middle layer.
Carefully turn the top half of bread over onto the Muffuletta. Wrap it in foil and heat in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. The traditional sandwich in New Orleans is served cold and one-fourth of the sandwich is a HUGE serving.


  1. man this looks good. You sure know how to fire up the taste buds girl!

  2. I was just in NOLA for the Sugar Bowl and had my very first authentic Muffuletta. It was fantastic! I am a huge olive salad fan, though, so it couldn't lose. (Cherri)


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