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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Muffalata & Manischewitz

In the tenth grade I traveled with my high school band to march in the  National Lion's Club Parade.  On our bus trip home, we stopped in New Orleans for an entire day. In a few short hours, I toured the mezmerizing above-ground cemetaries of New Orleans, walked up, down and through the beautiful decadence of Bourbon Street, saw my first live naked lady dance on a cocktail  table-top at 10 o'clock in the morning, and ate  my first and only mouth-watering  muffalata sandwich.  I have not seen one, smelled one, or tasted one since that day in New Orleans.

Until last night.

We were invited by a dear friend to a birthday dinner to celebrate her mother's birthday.  June, the birthday girl, is a wonderful sweet lady and friend.  We couldn't wait to see her, help celebrate her birthday, and enjoy a great evening with her surrounded by wonderful food.  I knew dinner was going to be  centered around New Orleans type food, so I prepared stuffed jalapeno poppers wrapped in maple cajun bacon as a little nosh before dinner.  I figured jalapeno anything would pair nicly with Big Easy food. 
We arrived and greeted our fellow dinner guests.  I plopped the jalapeno amuse bouche on the table and went into  the kitchen to uncork the wine.  Halfway through my decanting of the wine, our host told me that I was in charge of slicing the muffalata. I stopped and stared at the open oven door. Two foil-wrapped muffalata sandwiches were inside.  It was so totally unexpected. I think I actually said to her, "You made muffalata?!".   Who makes muffalata?  I really don't know what I was expecting.  Jambalaya? Blackened Redfish? Ettouffe'?  I certainly was not expecting muffalata. I was deliriously happy and undone. It was such a delightful surprise. Wow. I Could actually taste it just by looking at the wrapped foil packages resting from their oven sauna.

While the accompanying red beans and rice were ladled into bowls, topped with sour cream, and served to the other diners, I carefully sliced through the layers of muffalata to create individual  pie shaped sandwiches.

The crusty garlic bread was filled with chopped green olive salad,  spicy Capcicola ham, Sopressata ham, salty Prosciutto de Parma, sweet Honey Bourbon ham, Genoa salami, Mozzarella,  
chopped Giardiniera pickled vegetable relish, Basil oil, and Italian dressing.  It was then pressed and baked.

It was spectacular. The crunchy bread crackled when bitten into,  turning smooth and soft with the many warmed layers of meat, melted cheese,  briny olive salad, and puckery spicy relish.  It was perfect.  Every ingredient, although packed to the gills, retained its flavor, texture, and mouthfeel.  I loved the olive salad as it combined with the relish and dripped with the cheese.  The salty sweet ham varieties complimented each other with balance, while the smooth-as-velvet red bean and rice were a great foil to the muffalata flavor assault.  Butter soft.  Creamy. Texture counterpoint.

On our second round of beans and rice, we all tossed  bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers into our bowls.  Hello.

We finished dinner with a  travel gift from June;  port glasses of Sweet Walter Red Wine from Bully Hill Vineyards, Hammondsport, New York. It was a  sweet dessert wine. Not cloyingly sweet. It tasted like port. Manischewitz, someone said as we toasted  the birthday girl. 

The laughter filled every crevice of the dining room.  It was a warm and fun evening with delicious conversation and very tasty food.

I packed leftovers. Most are already gone.

Happy Birthday, June!

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