Cup4Cup Week: The Bread

FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL!

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. Even though the taint of the Saints’ scandal lingers and I’m still smarting from the BCS championship game last January, I can’t help but be excited for the start of the season. We Saints/Tigers fans are an optimistic lot. The booze helps.

Of course, you’ll need good food for the games this weekend, and you could do so much worse than a muffuletta, the Sicilian-by-way-of-New-Orleans sandwich invented by Salvatore Lupo at Central Grocery. It shares a meat-and-cheese situation with the Italian sub, but goes above and beyond in two important ways — the bread (a soft, round Italian loaf that’s light but substantial enough to take on the filling) and olive salad (with pickled vegetables and heavy on the garlic). Since I have no hope of ordering the sandwich in north Jersey or of getting a gluten-free muffuletta loaf at the bakery, I made my own.

And, well, I have to say the bread was not great. Looked nice, though:

I really don’t know if it was the flour, the recipe, my own incompetence, or some combination of those factors, but it didn’t work for me at all. The bread rose — more than I expected, actually — but emerged from the oven dense as dwarf star matter. Still, I had loads of meats and cheeses and a ridiculous amount of olive salad in the fridge, so I plowed ahead with the muffulettas, hoping a good soaking with olive salad oil would render the bread pliable enough for ingestion.

I used Emeril’s recipe and thought his olive salad was delicious, but lacked garlic. I KNOW, RIGHT? Craziness. Emeril is garlic’s ambassador, its Kris Kardashian. He revels in garlic the way David Foster Wallace reveled in footnotes — unashamedly and without regard for the reader. “Perhaps you could add another footnote or five, David?” The effrontery! But this is no time for balance and restraint; the more garlic you throw at olive salad, the clearer its point becomes.

If not for the bread issue, it would’ve been a damned fine sandwich even with the garlic paucity. Each muffuletta probably was less than a quarter of the Central Grocery sandwich, but I still only managed to eat a half, and that without the top of the bread which threatened to destroy the roof of my mouth. No thank you, bread; my Cap’n Crunch days are long behind me.

So all good experiments must come to an end. I’ll look for a new bread recipe with the Cup4Cup and let you know how it turns out. But do give the muffuletta a try if you have access to good bread and a cast iron stomach.

And happy footballing!

Let the bon temps rouler

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I finally realized a couple of years ago exactly what makes northeastern winters so difficult to bear. The weather plays a large part, of course, but mostly it’s the lack of anything to look forward to between the holidays and spring (or the start of baseball season, if you’re so inclined). It’s just one long, dark slog through gray skies, snow, and wind chills in the single digits. Harumph.

Contrast that to the time and energy spent on balls and parades during carnival season in Louisiana. Beginning on Twelfth Night (January 6th) and going straight through to Mardi Gras day, even if you’re not into the whole parade thing, at the very least you can get a king cake at a local bakery. But most people catch a parade here and there in the weeks leading up to the big day, even if they don’t go all out and make the trek to New Orleans.

I’ve only been back to one Mardi Gras since I moved away from the area, but I’ve made it my annual tradition to have a little taste of home as Endymion and Bacchus roll. The winds may be howling here in New Jersey, but barbecue shrimp and king cake keep me warm inside.

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For those of you who made it to the parades today, laissez les bon temps rouler, and may your hangovers be mild.