One home leave we sublet an apartment in the New Orleans’ Garden district. Foreign service home leave is intended as an opportunity for employees assigned overseas for two years to return to the United States and reacquaint themselves with the country of their birth. In other words, they don’t want you to go native or anything, possibly like your assignment better than your own country, start wearing inappropriate dress and learning odd dances. A mandatory biennial psychovac prevention excursion 😀
Of course I researched New Orleans cuisine 6 months before we arrived to make sure we didn’t miss out on anything. I don’t think we did; shrimp and oyster po’ boys, shrimp clemenceau, boudain, seafood gumbo, red beans and rice, fried chicken, smother pork chops, BBQ ribs, deep fried beignets, Slim Goodie’s Diner breakfast, the Gospel Brunch with a giant buffet of breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes accompanied by a wonderful choir and gospel music singers. We ate out, at least for one meal a day, which didn’t stop me from going to the grocery store to fill up the refrigerator and it’s freezer to make myself feel at home 🙂 Our neighbors across the street, fearing we weren’t getting the authentic New Orleans cuisine and would either get sick or starve to death, brought over pots and platters of food frequently. And even though the obituaries in The Times-Picayune newspaper published daily deaths from heart related illnesses of the city’s 20 -30 year olds, we convinced ourselves that all the walking, sightseeing and dancing at Tipitina’s would keep us relatively healthy. Fat but healthy. Maybe a little breathless 🙂
“Central Grocery is a small, old-fashioned Italian-American grocery store with a sandwich counter, located at 923 Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. It was founded in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant. He operated it until 1946 when he retired and his son-in-law Frank Tusa took over the operation. Today it is owned by Salvador T. Tusa, Salvatore’s grandson, and two cousins, Frank Tusa and Larry Tusathe”
The Italian Central Grocery is famous for our favorite New Orleans sandwich, the muffuletta; a round loaf of house baked bread, spread with olive salad and layered with slices of salami, cappicola, mortadella, mozzarella and provolone. One loaf serves 4 generously and is delicious.
France has a nice selection of charcuterie (deli meats) and of course cheeses. One day while at one of the stalls in the market, I started craving the rich, olive oil infused taste of a muffletta sandwich and determined to make one at home. A skittish baker, I laughed in the face of bread baking fear when I remembered I had a Kitchenaid!
Since coming back to the States, I have all but given up attempting the few yeast breads I have been successful at making. The yeast seemed to be the problem. During his last visit to Senegal, I asked my husband to bring back some Saf-Levure yeast, the brand I used in both West Africa and France. Worked.
The olive salad must be made 2–4 days ahead and allowed to marinate in the refrigerator. I used canned and jarred ingredients for the salad but if you have a Wegman’s or Whole Foods near you, I believe you’ll benefit from the quality of freshly marinated olives.
I bought the cheeses and cold cuts at the Catalano Importing Co. in Scranton. We had visited them before and were very satisfied with their products and their smiling welcome. They also make fresh sausages every Thursday!
Once assembled, the sandwich can be wrapped in aluminum foil and allowed to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the olive oil and ingredients to combine flavors.
Nolacuisine is a great site for Creole cuisine and you will find the recipe for the sandwich, bread and olive salad there by clicking the recipe link.