Carter & Cooley's Muffuletta
The Carter & Cooley muffuletta isn't anything like the Central Grocery version from New Orleans, and in this case, that's not a bad thing. Carter & Cooley Deli owner Doug Scott has come up with his own Houston variation. His sandwich is made with housemade olive salad, sliced ham, cotta salami, and Swiss and provolone cheese, on a fresh-baked Italian foccacia roll.
The authentic Central Grocery version adds mortadella and uses mozzarella in addition to provolone. In New Orleans, they use a very stiff bread—it's so firm that if you bite into the sandwich right after you buy it, a stream of olive oil from the olive salad runs down your arm. To best enjoy Central Grocery muffulettas, you have to let them sit awhile and soften up.
Savvy Houstonians buy them in the morning and "age" them in the cooler on the way home. (If you flip the sandwiches over at Lake Charles, the olive oil soaks evenly into the top and bottom rolls.) By the time you get back to Houston, your muffulettas are deliciously tender.
Since non-NOLA folks always complain about the hard bread in the authentic muffuletta, Texas imitators tend to err on the other extreme. Soft, insipid bread is usually the downfall of Texas muffulettas, but Doug Scott at Carter & Cooley has solved the problem by putting the sandwich in a panini press before serving. The result is a wonderfully crusty exterior and well-melted cheese inside--a very clever innovation.