Chicago Pizza

The real thing – Giordano’s Stuffed Crust

We spent three weeks this summer in America, finishing with a week in Chicago. Which meant Proper Pizza, hurrah hurrah. The current recommendation from the tourist guides is Giordano’s, and there was a branch just across the road from the hotel.

We had a 10″ stuffed crust (serves 2-3), with meatballs and olives (in the pic). It came ready cut into 6 slices, we managed 2 each and then I had to nap most of the afternoon. AND we’d skipped breakfast because we knew this was coming.

The structure is a yeast dough crust, formed into an open pie. That contains the cheese, and fillings. There are rules for what “fillings” go in the cheese and which go on top, I haven’t figured that out yet. Except that you shouldn’t put wet things inside. A second layer of dough is shaped into a circle, put on top of the filled pie, and the two pieces of pastry are sealed together with a high rim. There should be enough rim for you to top the pie with a good layer of tomato sauce and any remaining fillings.

When it’s baked, the second / top crust almost vanishes, but retains enough solidity to keep the sauce away from the cheese.

There are tremendous arguments about what constitutes a true Chicago pizza – cornmeal in the dough, types of cheese, raw or cooked tomato sauce, round or square. Of course it doesn’t matter, so long as you know what you like and where to get it.

After one of our trips, I check with John to see if we had something he’d like to put in the domestic repertoire. I was really surprised when he chose this. He’s always been a “pizza’s just glorified cheese on toast” man, but this must have hit some deep atavistic streak.

So, I did some reading and researching, and the other night we had My Version. I decided that the filling would be mostly Italian Sausage, which is a recipe I know and trust. Plus some pepperoni and stuffed olives.

I started in the morning with the Dough.

  • 1 lb white flour
  • 4 oz fine yellow cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1 x 7 gram packet fast action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 350 mls blood-temperature water
  • 125 mls olive oil

Sieve together the dry ingredients, add the liquids and mix quickly until smooth. It’s important with this dough not to overknead it, as this makes a chewy biscuity crust. Let it rise a couple of times and knock it back.

Make the Tomato Sauce and leave to stand for a bit for the flavours to blend.

  • 2 x tins chopped tomatoes
  • a mug of passata
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tsps garlic puree
  • 1 tsp oregano (John would have liked more)
  • A handful of chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp salt

Make sure you’ve got all the Cheese and Filling:

  • Supermarket grated mozzarella, at least 1 x 500 gram bag, depending on quantity of other fillings and how hard you pack it down. Get two to be on the safe side, you can always put the rest in the freezer.
  • Meat – meatballs, bacon, ham, pepperoni (after this experiment, I would cook the meatballs first)
  • Veg – mushrooms, spinach, peppers, olives
  • Also a good couple of handfuls of fresh Parmesan
  • You don’t need too much filling, the star here is the cheese, fillings are just flavouring.

Now, you need a 9 – 10″ cake tin, preferably a springform or with a removable bottom. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 8 or 9 (pretty much as hot as it will go) and put a large baking tray on the middle shelf.

And on to the Construction.

  • Grease the tin with olive oil. Knock the dough back. Take two thirds and roll out or squodge into the tin to make a bottom and raised sides, as high as you can go. Try not to let the dough get thick between the bottom and the sides, it will if you let it.
  • Add the meat and / or drier components of the filling. Get as much cheese in there as you can, pressing it down well.
  • Roll or pat out the spare third of the dough into a circle to fit over the cheese. Seal it into the top edge of the existing crust, and pinch it well to make a rampart to keep the sauce in.
  • Pour in the sauce, decorate with any wet toppings. Add the Parmesan.
  • Whack in the oven, onto the hot baking tray.
  • Cook at least 45 minutes. Ours got an hour and a quarter, which cooked it thoroughly inside but charred the edges a bit. Let it set for about 10 minutes.
  • Serve in big slices – this makes 6.

 

The crust was thick but light. I didn’t use all the sauce, but I will make sure to next time as it was only just enough. I’m gonna need a bigger rampart.

Italian Sausage

I love American breakfast sausage, thin crusty patties, over-seasoned and excellent with pancakes, french toast and syrup. Nom nom nom. But it’s even better when it’s Italian-style – herby, flecked with colour and flavour. I’ve been making it for Big Breakfasts for a long time, it also does well as burgers for bbqs, meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta, and most recently it’s done duty as a meatball mix for my attempt at home-made Chicago deep dish stuffed pizza.

Just mix together:

3 lbs minced meat, not lean – beef, pork and veal are all excellent candidates. You could use chicken or turkey or venison, but you’d need to make sure you added some really fat pork to balance it out. You don’t have to make 3 pounds weight, it’s just an easy amount to buy.

Fresh vegetable flavours, finely chopped – you can pulse them in a processor but the mix will be wet. For this big a batch of meat, use fresh garlic, at least 6 cloves, a bunch of green onions, two fresh peppers (one green and one red). A red chilli if you like it hot.

Herbs and spices – fennel seeds, dried oregano, fresh basil, salt, black pepper. Start with a teaspoon of each and see how you go. Other things to sneak in are grated orange peel, nutmeg, sage if you have a lot of veal in the mixture, coriander or paprika.

The flavours meld well if you leave it overnight in the fridge, and it will keep a few days.

When you’re ready to cook it, pinch off a small ball and fry/grill it to check the seasoning’s OK, and adjust to preference.

Mostarda di #Allotment

Glistening in righteous expensiveness in the upper-crust supermarkets, lives Mostarda di Cremona. What we can buy, while still the genuine article, is the lower end of the range. It’s a strange substance, candied fruit preserved  in a mustard syrup. The Real Thing is split by region (there are many Mostardas) and also by specified fruit. You’d choose the one to go with your cheese or cold meat, like we would make a choice between quince or cranberry or mint jelly. It’s as much texture as flavour, some are chopped small and are more like an old English chutney, but I like the ones that look like a box of Newberry Fruits tipped into a bottle of glycerine.

When we were making Courgette and Pineapple jam, I loved the crispness of the courgette pieces in among the clear syrup, and I thought then that I’d have a go at a Courgette Cremona. Starting to research recipes, I discovered what my main problem would be. Authentic Mostardas are flavoured with mustard essential oil, which you can get in Italy but not here. There were compromise versions with dry mustard powder dissolved into the liquid, or spice bags filled with mustard seed boiled up with the fruit, but I was stomping my Ickle Foot of Tantrum. Why can’t I get it here? My Indian cookery books all talk about mustard oil with gay abandon, surely I could find it in Sheffield.

And I did, sort of. Mustard oil IS sold in Indian shops, in with the almond oil and hair tonics. It has “For External Use Only” written on the labels in bright red letters. Apparently under EU regulations it can’t be sold as a foodstuff, as it has a high amount of erucic acid. But they haven’t put anything in it to make it unusable, just a label saying Ooooh, Aren’t You Naughty. There’s a wonderfully tactful explanation on the Spices of India website. I wasn’t sure what the mustardy strength of my massage oil/hair tonic would be compared to this mythical Italian essential oil, so we took it slowly and tasted as we went.

Following the original jam recipe, I put 2 lbs of peeled and degorged courgettes, green and yellow, into a bowl and added about 1.5 lbs of caster sugar. I’d found that to be incredibly sweet when I made it before, so this time I added 2 fl oz lime juice as well. Stirred it up well, and left it overnight. The sugar brings out the juice, crisping up the courgette and also making a clear syrup. The idea is that now you boil the mixture, and it turns into jam. I wanted to stop partway through that process, while there was still plenty of liquid. It took a while to get there, but eventually I had some nicely candied courgette in hot syrup. I added a small tub of glace cherries (rinsed), 4 oz diced peel (not the regular industrial mixed peel, some candied citron, orange and lemon peel strips cut to the same size as the courgette), and simmered that for just a few minutes to meld it all in.

Now came the tricksy bit. The one thing I did know about mustard oil from my reading is that it is pungent in the bottle, but loses that and becomes sweet when you heat it. Fair play, regular made-up mustard does that too. So I didn’t want to heat it too much when mixing it in with the syrup, but I did want to get it emulsified before anything started to caramelise.

I waited until the syrup was warm enough to stick a finger into, and added 1 fl oz mustard oil. It tasted fine, sweet and slightly warming, but not anywhere near a full mustard hit. The mixture didn’t separate, though. Let it cool down a bit more, taste again, add some more oil. Over the course of a couple of hours I added 4 fl oz in total. The syrup is tangy rather than hot, certainly not piccalilli strength. It made a 1-litre jarful, and it looks beautiful. The light colours of the courgettes are set off by the deeper yellows and oranges of the peel, and the scattered bright red of the cherries. I was concerned that the syrup and oil would separate when it cooled thoroughly, but it doesn’t seem to have yet. Which means the mustard oil is slowly finding its way into the fruit …

The traditional Italian time to eat Mostardas is autumn, but I think for UK versions it’ll be Christmas. With ham, with Wensleydale, with cold turkey. Glazing a ham with it, even, or studding the top of a terrine – decorating the top of a warm whole Camembert.

We have a lot of butternut squash coming off the allotment, and I am tempted now to try a cross between candied pumpkin and a mostarda, but using the dry powder variant to see if I can get it stronger.

Simple Pork in Cream Sauce

This is loosely based on Cotes de Porc Sauce Nenette, from Julia Child. It’s very forgiving, and usually needs very little shopping. Extras freeze well, and you can double up the sauce without a problem.

You want pork shoulder steak, or thick chops – something that isn’t too tender like a medallion, or too fatty like belly. If you ask the butcher (or look on the packet) for something that would take 15-20 minutes to grill, you’re on the right track.

For the sauce, you need garlic, tomato paste, wholegrain mustard, and creme fraiche.

Brown the meat in a little bit of oil in a heavy pan, on both sides. When it’s seared, tip in a chopped clove of garlic, 2 teaspoons of tomato paste, and 3 of wholegrain mustard. Stir it around well, and add 250ml of creme fraiche (a whole small tub). Stir again and get it up to a lively simmer, leave it for about 20 minutes (with the lid off).

The sauce should thicken and concentrate. Taste it near the end and add salt if you think it needs it. If it gets too thick, a bit of chicken stock of water will loosen it up. If it’s not thick enough when you want to serve it, take the meat out and keep it warm while you boil the sauce down.

This amount of sauce will do for about 3 big chops or four small steaks. You could also get cubed casserole meat (leg or collar), start if the same way and then stew it slowly in the oven for a few hours.

If you like added veggies, you can put chopped red and yellow peppers, or onions, or mushrooms, in while the meat is browning. And you can increase the garlic to taste.

I sometimes put chopped fresh herbs in at the very end – basil if I’ve used peppers, parsley with mushrooms, tarragon or chives if it’s plain.

It’s good with plain rice, potatoes, pasta, seasonal veggies or a crisp bitter salad.

Preserved Courgettes

So far we’ve got three different kinds of preserved courgettes.

Courgette and Pineapple Jam – yellow courgettes, seeded, peeled and cut up small. Set aside overnight dredged with sugar. It makes a syrup, and next day you boil it up with added tinned pineapple and a bit of lemon juice to help the set. It was very very sweet, I’ve added some lime juice. The fruit is almost crystallised and the jam is very clear. I’m wondering if putting in more glace-type fruit and citrus peel, and adding mustard might make something interesting in the cremona line.

Marrow Mangoes – we did the giant courgette soaked in vinegar and stuffed with spices for 10 days, straining and boiling every day. Now they’re sliced, and bottled with some of the vinegar boiled up with sugar. They’re supposed to sit now for three months.

Courgette Chutney – there was some vinegar left over from the “mangoes”. It went in a pan with some white and some brown sugar, 3 large yellow courgettes, one red and one white onion, two large cored cooking apples, and a handful of sultanas. Fruit and veg chopped fairly small, courgettes and apple unpeeled. The vinegar was sharp rather than warmly spiced – it had sat with fresh ginger, onion and horseradish in it – so I didn’t add spice, but did put in some peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (a fat piece about 3 inches long) and a good sprinkle of salt. It took a few hours to cook down – I started with a small amount of sugar and added more as we went along until it was the right sweetness and thickening well. It’s got a right punch, which I suspect will only increase as it matures. It’ll make great cheese sandwiches.

Bloody Courgettes

Yeah yeah yeah, I KNOW. But we only planted a few, although probably a few more than we thought we’d want in case of early death. And the little young ones were delicious, and we treated them with reverential care.

Now? Buggrit millenium hand and shrimp.

It didn’t help that J went away for a couple of weeks, and I Was Not As Assiduous in Allotmenting As I Might Have Been. My Bad. So now we have marrow-sized courgettes, and new ones coming all the time. We’ve had them every day in some form or another, and I’m fishing now for ever more exotic ideas.

Lifesavers have been:

Riverford Organics (who were our veggie box people until we got the allotment, and deserve splendiferous praise) maintain a recipe section on their website which is wonderful for me – it features new recipes for seasonal produce, a “what to do with the last … in the box” feature, and general hints and tips on dealing with fruit and veg. Currently on the stove is their Mexican One-Pot Courgettes, ready to be re-heated tomorrow with some pulled pork and cheese quesadillas. And there’s enough for another go-round later, as part of a Mexican feast along with some pork crackling and guacamole. I’m also thinking of offloading some of their bbq recipes at a birthday party this weekend.

The Penguin Book of Jam, Pickles and Chutneys by David and Rose Mabey. I’ve just nearly had a heart attack looking at where you could get a copy of this online, and you’re looking at a minimum of £40, even on Ebay. I feel I should point out that other books by the same authors are available. Jeez. I had a copy years and years ago, it vanished somewhere, and I found a very battered one for £1.99 in Oxfam last summer. It’s a slim little paperback, but it’s packed with shedloads of information, and excellent recipes. I’ve just potted up their bramble jelly, and used the pulp for a bramble cheese to go with the Wensleydale at Christmas. For courgettes, I’ve started this very evening a thing called “marrow mangoes”. You peel a giant courgette, cut in half lengthways and deseed it. Then you stuff the insides with onions, ginger, spices etc, tie it back together and steep it in vinegar for a week or so. Take it out, cut it open, chop the marrow and bottle it with a hot syrup made with the steeping vinegar. Won’t be able to report on success with this one until Christmas when it will be just ready. I’m also tempted by their marrow and pineapple jam, which looks easy and cheap for something quite unusual.

As usual the Dr Gourmet website has a twist, this time in the form of Zucchini Pizza Crust, which I am saving for the final stretch. Literally a giant disk of grated courgette held together with the minimum of egg and flour, baked until set and crisp and then baked again with pizza toppings.

I’ve started doing a thing I call a Roast Traybake – putting a variety of veg and some small joints of meat (chicken thighs, pork or lamb chops) in a shallow tray, drizzling with oil and appropriate seasonings, and bunging it in at Gas Mark 4 for an hour or so. “Appropriate seasonings” have include a paste of garlic, lemon juice and tarragon (with some chicken); cumin, coriander and oregano with some tomatoes and pork; mustard seeds, fenugreek and ginger with some lamb. Courgettes always feature – in lumps or slices – but we’ve also had peppers, carrots, big runner beans, tomatoes, and onion wedges. Beetroot and turnips will be joining in soon as we start harvesting them.

Hiding shredded or grated courgettes in things is also useful. I don’t bake, usually, but even I am contemplating muffins or cakes based on carrot or beetroot recipes, with added or substituted courgette. Having watched the bread episode of the British Bakeoff, though, I know to make sure it’s well dried before it goes in, or a soggy mess is the most likely result. I’ve been adding them to green salads, sandwiches / wraps, or yoghourt / hummus sort of things for dips and dressings.

John is back from The Allotment with a new batch, and assures me that while the green ones have gone into remission, the yellow ones are coming into their own. Aaaaaargh.

Christmas Fig Chutney

I was very taken, watching HFW and the River Cottage Christmas Fayre programme, with his Christmas Chutney. But when I went looking for it, it was the one recipe that wasn’t up on his website, bah humbug.

I’ve been meaning to try some recipes from my new (second-hand) copy of Jams, Pickles and Chutneys, and there’s one in there for Dried Fruit Chutney.

So from what I remembered from the telly, what I’d got in the cupboard, and using quantities from the book, I took:

8 oz baby dried figs, cut roughly
8 oz dried sweetened cranberries
4 oz pitted prunes
4 oz raisins
soaked together for about 20 mins with the grated rind of 2 oranges and the juice of half an orange

While that’s soaking, chop 12 oz each onions and apples. That was about 3 onions, 1 Bramley and a couple of red eating apples. Add 4 small cloves of crushed garlic. Fry them in a tiny tiny drop of oil, just to get them started, until they’re soft and you can’t smell the raw onion any more.

Tip in the fruit and juice, and add about half a pint of cider vinegar along with the rest of the juice from the 2 oranges. Stir and cook until the fruit is starting to plump up and soften and the vinegar is getting well absorbed.

Add another half pint of cider vinegar, and 2 good tablespoons of balsamic glaze flavoured with orange oil.

Bung in the spices:
a thumb joint sized piece of fresh ginger, chopped small
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
0.5 tsp ground cloves
pinch paprika
2 tsps ground cardamom
2 tsps ground ginger

Stir all up well, let it come back to simmer and stir in, slowly, 24 oz muscovado sugar.

Simmer slowly until it’s thick and pulpy.

Update: it made a very large and two smaller jars. Dark and fruity, almost chewy in spots. It was ready to eat straight away, but about 6 weeks down the line the ginger is starting to come through more and the flavours are really developing. It’s not dried out as much as I was afraid it would, but it’s not a sopping wet chutney. Just right for cheese sandwiches.