Those goofy National This-n-That Days crack me up. Like I’m going to celebrate National Tooth Ache Day in February or Eight Track Tape Day in April.
But today, November 3, is important. It’s named after a lazy, gambling, rich man with terrible military instincts and a hunger that demanded meat between two pieces of bread.
Yep, National Sandwich Day, the birthday of John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich.
The sandwich has survived as one of our country’s most popular lunches – through the Depression, when it was called a wish sandwich because you wished it had some meat on it; through the height of the low-carb craze; through the wrap phase.
It is a democratic meal that can encompass proteins, fats, vegetables, spreads, and salty, sweet or fruity fillings. It gives mayonaisse something to do.
The most popular sandwiches in America all run a distant second to the hamburger, but they include chicken breast, tuna salad, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, the BLT, grilled cheese, club, cheesesteak, Reuben, Cuban, sub, gyro and sloppy Joe.
Perversly, I am including a recipe here for a sandwich that should be more popular – the muffaletta. This New Orleans staple, packed with a whallop of fat and sodium, is not for everyday consumption. But on a chilly fall weekend, go ahead and assemble one or two – invite your friends over, hand them a cup of cold beer or root beer and a quarter of a sandwich and let the good times roll.
The muffaletta is not a sandwich you can make on the spur of the moment because the star of the sandwich, the olive salad, has to mariante for a least 24 hours before serving. Even people who dislike olives have been known to go back for seconds of muffalettas. It’s that good. The other secret is using great bread. The paesano bread at Nova’s Bakery in Charlotte works great. But if you can’t get over there, look for a course textured Italian bread at local groceries. Don’t use soft stuff – it will wilt under the weight of meat, vegetables and oil.
Olive Salad for muffalettas
1 1/2 cups pitted green olives (don’t use manzanillas, you need firmer, larger green olives)
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1 cup gardiniera mix (a pre-made, pickled vegetable mix that must include califlower), drained
1 Tbsp. capers
3 fresh garlic cloves, peeled
1/8 cup sliced celery
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup roasted red peppers
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor. Pulse briefly to coarsely chop. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl or container. Pour olive oil over mixture, stir briefly, cover with an air-tight lid and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
For mufaletta sandwiches
Large loaf of coarse-textured artisan bread
1 1/2 cups olive salad mix
1/4 lb each of thin sliced ham, Mortadella, Genoa salami, Provolone cheese and mozzarella
Cut bread loaf in half horizontally. Pull excess bread from inside of top of loaf, leaving a thin shell. Place olive salad in hollowed out top. Top with meats and cheeses. Cover with bottom of loaf, cut side down. Flip sandwich over, wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove plastic wrap and wrap the loaf in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with plenty of napkins.