My two favorite places in this great country of ours is Las Vegas, and New Orleans, or as the locals lovingly refer to as 'Nawlins'. And narrowing it down even further is The French Quarter.
It's the oldest, and the most famous neighborhood in New Orleans. Geographically it's about a 8 block by 12 block area along the Mississippi River. It was founded in 1718 by the French, but also has a touch of Spanish influence added to the mix.
People always hear about how dangerous a place it is. But within the actual confines of the Quarter, it is quite safe. It is a collage of sights and sounds and smells, that is second to none . Just walking around the Quarter, you are entertained on every sidewalk and street corner by a collection of art and music that would cost a fortune in any other place in the world. One of my fondest recollections of the place, is walking back to my room very late one night after a rousing night of partying on Bourbon St. I took a shortcut that I knew of, and on the way I had to pass through a less travelled area. Almost to my room, the most beautiful, melodic sound I've ever heard was echoing through the alleyway. Leaning up against a corner lamp post, was a tattered old guy, maybe 65 or so, but he could have been younger, he just looked worn out. And the most haunting music was pouring out of his old Sax. I stood there in awe of this man, full well knowing that if he were in the hick town where I live, he would be headlining the local Jazz club.
But in Nawlins, he was leaning up against a lamp post at 3:00 in the morning. I stood there for quite a while, and as I turned to leave I smiled and tossed a 5 dollar bill in his open Sax case laying on the sidewalk. His eyes met mine, he winked at me, and continued playing his soulful Sax, never missing a note.......
Thats one of the reasons that I love that place. Another of course is the food! The fabulous, spicy, awesome food!! Fresh oysters, crawfish, blackened Redfish, Shrimp, Gumbo, Etouffe', Jambolaya, gater tail, Po-Boys, and my favorite..The Muffaletta Sandwich.
Every Fat Tuesday ( Mardi Gras ) where I work , we have a kitchen area that has a sink, a large fridge, and 2 microwaves. I also keep a double burner hot plate there at all times. On Fat Tuesday, I get to work long before we open the doors for business. THATS MY DAY!!!
I start by bringing in my boom box and playing hours of Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco music that I've burned on CD's. On every table I put hundreds of beads, and trinkets that I've accumilated over the years from my many visits there. I usually prepare the same two dishes every year because they are easy to make...Chicken Jambolaya, and my version of The Mufaletta.
In a large pot that I set on my hot plate, I start sauteeing in olive oil, 3 large onions, 3 any color peppers, 3 whole Jalapenas( seeds and all ), 3 cloves of garlic, 3 pounds of deboned chicken thighs, and season with salt, pepper, thyme, basil, paprika, and oregano. 1 whole tablespoon of each spice...OMG!! Within a 1/2 hr everyones in the kitchen asking me the same questions that they ask me year after year, because the smell wafts out into the showroom driving everyone nuts!....After about another 1/2 hour, I add 3 sticks of Andouille Sausage to the mix,( you can use any smoked sausage if Andouille is unavailable ), 3 small cans of chicken broth, and 2 large cans of canned tomatoes . When this mix comes to a boil, turn down the heat to low, and add 2 boxes of Zatarans Jambolaya mix. Myself, I have a mix of spices from the Quarter that I add to it, and then I just add plain rice( 2 cups raw rice ) but the Zatarans works just fine ! Cover and let cook for 30 minutes......DONE!
The Mufaletta at first glance merely looks like an Italian sub. But it has one wonderfully extra topping that sets it apart from all others..The Olive Salad topping!
I make my own olive salad and it's quick and easy...Heres my version...
In a large bowl add 2 large jars of drained, chopped green olives with pimentos
Add 1 large jar of drained chopped roasted peppers.
Mix in 1/4 cup of EVOO ( ask Rachel Ray ) and set aside.
If you have a local bakery, you can request that he bake you 2 loaves of ROUND Italian bread!
But in a pinch, buy two loaves of Italian unsliced. Slice it in two lengthwise, but make the top half a little thicker. Lay the bread on the table, and by hand pull some of the extra bread out of the top half so when you put the 2 halves together, all of the stuff that you are about to pile on fits better..For 2 sandwiches, you should have...
1# of Sliced hard salami
1# of sliced genoa salami
2# of sliced ham
1# of sliced Mozzarella
1# of sliced Provalone
With both loaves layed out on the table, Take a brush and slather EVOO on each side of the bread loaf halves.lightly but evenly.
then on each of the 'bottom' halves start layering your meat and cheeses.
1st the ham..then the Moz...then the salami, then the Provalone, then the Genoa. repeat layering till you run out of stuff. Then top it off with the salad mixture until the top of the sandwich is thickly covered.
Put the top half of the bread on....Voila!!!.....the Mufaletta
Cut into small portions because it is quite filling.
All of this food usually feeds between 12-20 people...YUM OH!!
The music...The aroma...the food...the FUN! Mardi Gras!!!!!
Laissez Les Bontemps Roullez......Let The Good Times Roll.....Peace. Galen