First and foremost: Happy 2011 to all my Dear Readers! May your New Year be filled with lots of delicious food journeys of your very own!
We decided–pretty much as always–to stay home for New Years Eve. We both did a lot of NYE partying in our younger days, so we don’t feel the need to go out and rub elbows with the great masses. Instead, our tradition is great food, maybe a drink at midnight, and some excellent video entertainment of some form or fashion. We did get an invitation to go out this year with our best friends: to have dinner at a posh downtown establishment where–thanks to her son working there–she was able to get window-side reservations at a time that would still have us sitting there when the fireworks started outside, right near–and in perfect view of–the window. It was really tempting to go with them … but we’ve just had a busy week … so we talked about it … but we ultimately decided to stay home instead.
This year, we also decided to let Zingerman’s be a big part of our New Years celebration!
If you’ve never been to Ann Arbor, MI to experience Zingerman’s in person … have no fear! They have an awesome website you can shop 24/7 … one that sells almost everything that the store sells … except Twist & Shouts! What are Twist & Shouts? I don’t know if they still make them–THEY’D BETTER!–but … at least at one point, Twist & Shouts were a yummy twist of yeast bread studded with rough-cut chocolate chips. They’re to die for … but you can only get them in the store in Ann Arbor … so WE WANT TWIST & SHOUTS ON THE WEBSITE! WE WANT TWIST & SHOUTS ON THE WEBSITE! WE WANT TO ORDER THEM TO HAVE AT HOME! DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, ZINGERMAN’S!?!?!? WE WANT TWIST & SHOUTS ON THE WEBSITE! WE WANT THEM AT HOME!
Oops! Sorry about the outburst. ^^ Soap box issue ^^
And now, back to the blog
I love Zingerman’s bread! I love their cheeses! I love their sweets and their spices … even though they’re all pretty expensive. They’re definitely not every-day foods. They’re a little on the pricey side, so they’re special treats for special occasions … but New Years is definitely a special occasion
This year we decided to order bread, mustard, and brownies for our treats. Zingerman’s is known far and wide for their bread, and we chose three of our favorites: onion rye, parmesan peppercorn, and–for dessert–their famous chocolate cherry!
The parmesan peppercorn is just amazing! Chewy crust and a dense middle, the flavor starts to hit you from the first chew. By your second chew, your mouth is overwhelmed with the flavor of cheese and black pepper. The third chew is even better than that! We sliced, toasted, and used it for cold sandwiches this evening, leaving half a loaf to do the same thing all over again another day. My husband made himself a big sloppy sandwich with lots of different meats and cheeses on it–then he ran it through the broiler to melt his cheese and toast the whole thing–but I kept it simple: bread that I toasted but then let get cold, with mayo, a slice of monterey jack cheese, and a little roast beef on top to round it out. It was yummy and a half!
We shared a brownie for dessert, then started out with a New Years breakfast the next morning, made of a thick slice of the chocolate cherry bread–a cocoa-infused yeast dough bread, studded with chunks of sweet chocolate and lots of sour/sweet cherries–that we toasted with a smear of butter on top. Divine!
We got the loaf of onion rye bread for a special purpose. You see, we love Muffaletta in our house, that salty/garlicky/spicy olive salad made famous on thick New Orleans sandwiches, stacks of chewy bread, sliced ham and salami, and a generous portion of provolone cheese … then topped with even more olive salad. Already a sandwich fan when I met him, my husband has loved muffaletta since the first moment I introduced him to it, so I keep a gallon jar or so of muffaletta salad in my fridge pretty much full-time … ready for any sandwich emergency. It’s part of why he loves me
To start our New Years muffaletta sandwich, I took my largest serrated bread knife, and cut the bottom 3/4 of an inch of onion rye bread off the bottom of the loaf, leaving a top that was roughly twice as thick. I spread a half-inch or so layer of muffaletta salad on the cut side of the bottom piece, making sure I spread it evenly, all the way to the edges of the bread.
I topped the muffaletta salad with four slices of sliced monterey jack, since I didn’t have any of the traditional cheese (provolone) in the house. The jack cheese is equally mild and tasty, so it makes a good substitution … but you can use what you like best, anything from American slices to much nicer cheeses you slice yourself.
I added a layer of ham.
And a layer of salami.
Then another layer of ham.
And another layer of salami
Then, if you’ll notice, we hollowed out the top of the bread a little, making a cavern inside the lid our sandwich (and enjoying the soft pieces of bread we dung out from the inside! MMMM!) so that we could fill it with another half-inch layer of muffaletta salad, and still leave a bit of an indention in the top to fit against that mound of meat and cheese. Trust me, you need to save every inch of vertical space in this sandwich. It’s going to be so thick that you’ll have trouble biting it already
Put the lid in place, and VOILA!
Isn’t that a piece of art?
But wait! There’s more!
When you order a muffaletta sandwich in one of the New Orleans-style places, you get your basic stacked sandwich. It’s good–don’t get me wrong–but if you have the time (and we do) to process this sandwich a little bit longer … it’s sooo worth it. You see, I like to turn my muffaletta sandwiches into a “rolled sandwich,” which makes it even better!
I start by wrapping the entire sandwich in a sheet of plastic wrap, rolling it around the thick middle. I then cover it with a second sheet of plastic wrap, running end to end and making a secure package.
The magic doesn’t stop there. Once I have the sandwich loosely wrapped, I roll out another sheet of plastic wrap … but I don’t tear it off the roll quite yet. I spread the trailing end out on the table, place my wrapped sandwich across it … and then I start compacting the sandwich by pressing down on it and crushing the loaf of bread as best I can, and then gradually turning it and wrapping it … pressing it harder and harder each time, and wrapping it tighter and tighter through several rotations of plastic wrap. Press on it hard! Don’t be shy! You WANT it to compact down as much as you can manage.
After compacting the sandwich through at least three rotations of plastic wrap–pushing hard and pulling tight with every motion–I tear off the roll, smooth down all the edges, and then tear off one more sheet of plastic wrap: one long enough to wrap end-to-end again, with sufficient overlap to seal the whole package together … so that it looks like this:
Then the whole package goes in the fridge overnight.
The next day, you can cut slices of this sandwich right through the plastic wrap, and it looks like this:
Thick, ice cold, all the juices and flavors melded together … quite simply, it’s pretty amazing! Plus, you can slice it thick or thin
As far as the muffaletta salad goes, you can buy it in jars, pre-made … or you can make it yourself like I do. Here’s my recipe, but I’ll warn you … it makes about two gallons. Either cut the recipe down (and make half or even a quarter of this recipe) or make jars for all your friends once it’s done. That’s what I do
Lane’s Muffaletta Salad
- one gallon green, pimento-stuffed olives
- two quarts pitted black or kalamata olives
- one quart Giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables)
- two cups pepperoncini peppers
- two cups cocktail onions
- two cups diced fire-roasted red bell peppers
- one cup capers
- four to six stalks fresh celery, sliced thin
- six fresh carrots, peeled, halved laterally or quartered–depending on the diameter of the carrot–then sliced into thin chips
- one large head of garlic, peeled and minced
- three tablespoons celery seeds
- three tablespoons dried oregano
- fresh-ground black pepper
- red wine vinegar
- olive oil
Drain the olives, Giardiniera, pepperoncini, cocktail onions, and capers, reserving the juice (of all of them together) in one container, and combining all of the solid pieces from each in one large bowl. Remove the stems from the pepperoncini peppers (if desired), and then crush and/or chop the bigger pieces (of the whole mix) up into a smaller, more uniform-sized pieces. Some people leave their muffaletta salad whole, making a dramatic sandwich filled with whole olives and peppers. I like mine more like a very chunky relish … because I feel like that style stays on the bread better when you make sandwiches. Make the version/size that suits you/your cooking style best.
When you have all your veggie-matter groomed down to the size that suits you, add in the fresh veggies (celery, carrots, and garlic) and the seasonings. Stir to combine. Then–from your combined brines–measure out one cup and add that back to the veggies, stirring to coat everything evenly. From here, you want to add red wine vinegar and olive oil in a 2:1 ratio, adding slow and stirring after each addition … until you have enough liquid to float the entire batch … without it being too soupy either. The idea is just to cover most of it with the oil and vinegar brine to keep it from drying out in storage.
Once I have it all mixed together, I make a few gift jars … and then I jar the rest of it up for us. To store the stuff we’re keeping, I don’t feel the need for fancy caning jars or anything. I just packed the remaining muffaletta salad right back in the big jars the olives/etc. came out of. There no need to waste them, and they’re the prefect containers to store your finished salad.
As you use it, it may begin to dry out a little on the top, thanks to you dipping rich, juicy spoonfuls of muffaletta and its delicious oil and vinegar brine out of it, using it to drown loaves of chewy bread … something I encourage highly! If it starts to get a little dry like that, just add back a little vinegar and oil to bring the fluid level back up. Thanks to all the vinegar and salt … this is definitely not a low-salt recipe … so I apologize to all you salt = high blood pressure folks! This recipe isn’t for you, and I don’t know of a way to strip salt out of brined olives.
Muffaletta salad also makes a great substitution for pickle relish in a lot of different applications, especially if you’re a big fan of olives and capers like I am. I’ve used it in tarter sauce, chicken/tuna/egg salad … and a lot more … and found it delicious every time!
As always, experiment