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.

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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.

Turkish Breakfast Eggs

eggs baked in spicy tomato sauce

Breakfast at Cumulus Inc

In Melbourne, food blogger Ess Jay took us to Cumulus Inc one morning for breakfast. It was all very swish and stylish. Excellent coffee, as we’d come to expect already, standard local breakfast dishes like Bircher Muesli, and some wonderful specialities. I had to try the 65/65 egg, which is an egg poached at 65 degrees for 65 minutes – the white sets beautifully while the yolk is still creamy. I opted for it atop some home-baked beans and ham hock. John is a big fan of eggs for breakfast, and chose the Turkish baked eggs. The menu description just says “Turkish baked eggs, spiced tomato, dukkah, labne” so we weren’t sure how it would be presented.

In the end (see photo) it was a version of Huevos Rancheros, or Eggs in Purgatory, or whatever you call them in your neck of the woods. A skillet of thick highly-seasoned tomato sauce, stirred through with cooked greens, with eggs dropped into it and baked. Fresh labne (yoghourt cheese) dabbed on the top, along with dukkah. Two slices of what Melbournians call Turkish bread on the side, toasted.

Dukkah is strange stuff. It’s basically roast and coarsely ground seeds (sesame, coriander and cumin being the mainstays), mixed with coarse salt. You can put a little bowl of it out with bread and olive oil, for texturised dunking. Or you can use it as a crumb, a sprinkle, a rub … possibilities are endless. It’s Egyptian in origin, and can include dried mint, pepper, aniseedy flavourings, and things to bulk it out. Commercial ones include roast ground chickpeas, which are cheap, but you could use finely chopped nuts. I found an Australian recipe which features hazelnuts and looks very yummy.

We used to make labne years ago when I was a vegetarian hippy, although we didn’t know to call it that. We just took our homemade thick yoghourt, wrapped it in cheesecloth and hung it to drain overnight. You can form it into balls and preserve it in olive oil, and you can buy that sort of labne in a jar at speciality shops. I made a brief sortie in search of some the other day, but they were sold out. So I bought some mozzarella “pearls” instead, and they’ve been lurking in a jar with some thyme and lemon peel, covered in good dark green olive oil.

Currently on the stove I’ve got the tomato sauce simmering.

  • 1 leek, chopped
  • sweated in a reasonable amount of olive oil with 2 sprigs of thyme and 3 fresh bay leaves
  • mixed with 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp mixed spice, 2 tsp crushed garlic

heated until the flavours rise

  • plus a good splurge of tomato paste, and 2 tins of plum tomatoes, plus some water to stop it burning

It’s been simmering for about an hour. I’ll let it thicken up in a bit, and drop some eggs into it – not sure yet if I’ll bake them properly or just let them poach in it. John isn’t too keen on greens, so I’ve left that out, and I’m doing some lemon creamed chard anyway as another dish. I have a commercial dukkah from Sainsburys, just to see what it’s like. But I may abandon it and mix a home-grown one if it’s boring. And as we’re having a Middle-Eastern sort of supper, there may well be pitta bread.

(In the end I put 6 large eggs in the sauce, topped with random splurgings of cheese in oil, and cooked on the stovetop with a lid on. Served 3, sprinkled with the commercial dukkah and some extra roasted chopped hazelnuts, and a couple of pittas each.

The tomato sauce could be varied by popping some heat in it, paprika or chilli, but didn’t need it. I need to practice with timing, the eggs were cooked all the way through and would have been better soft.)

Sausage Pie

I bought a tube of good sausagemeat at the farmers' market on Thursday. Today I spread it in the bottom of a square baking dish (it came out about a quarter inch thick). Then I topped it with some slabs of mature cheddar, and spread those with wholegrain mustard. I had a tin of pear halves hanging about, so I put a half a pear in each corner of the dish. Topped the whole lot with a square of ready rolled puff pastry, and baked at gas mark 7 for 40 minutes.

We ate all of it, with some peas, but with some more forethought and some potatoes and other veg, it would have easily served four.

I've been thinking of variations –

  • cheese and branston pickle
  • a layer of braised red cabbage, maybe with chestnuts
  • apple sauce or chunks of apple instead of the pear
  • cranberries
  • a chunky tomato sauce
  • hard boiled eggs
  • apricots / dried fruit and maybe some curry powder
  • blue cheese and braised celery or chicory

all of them easy to do, easy to make in advance, cheap, filling and tasty.

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Discoveries – Spring 08

My grandfather didn't smoke and didn't drink (until after his militantly temperance wife died), but had his own ideas about what constituted an illicit treat. He and my dad used to let me stay up late with them watching old films on the telly – Bogart, Greenstreet, Lorre -  raiding the pantry for snacks of strong cheese and crunchy pickled onions.  People now can't understand why that was such a treat, the spread of the Ploughman's Lunch and supermarket Snack Box has created a terrible acceptance of plastic cheese and bland pickles. We put that right yesterday with a crusty brown loaf, a wedge of Collier's cheddar and some Barry Norman Pickled Onions. The cheese has that slightly gritty mouthfeel, strong and salty flavour, and not too crumbly but definitely not plasticine texture. The onions are magnificent, the closest to home-made I think I've bought (in a regular store, anyway). Dark brown, spicy, crunchy, those little green flecks that look like some poisonous metallic deposit. Brilliant. Just the thing to eat with a classic movie. Barry Norman understands.

Champagne Marmite – not sure about this. The Guinness one is yummy, quite sweet. This one is sourer, and sharper, like dry white wine left open for a day or two. Pleasant enough, but not one to search out.

The iron_trash community over on LiveJournal.

Konnyaku noodles, little bundles with appendages, boingy and springy.

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Savoury Cornbread

I said when I made this regular plain cornbread that it would be good with extra stuff in it, and I was right. I followed the recipe exactly the other night, except …

When I greased the baking dish, I scattered on the bottom:

  • 4 sundried tomatoes snipped into small strips
  • 2 oz chorizo / paprika salami, cut into slices and then in half again
  • A handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • 3 oz strong cheddar cheese, in little cubes
  • A handful of dried black pitted olives

Wow. That was amazing served warm with chilli, and has been wonderful cold for breakfast, snacks and lunches since. If I were to do it and again (and believe me, I will, it’s an excellent thing to take to a bbq), I would:

  • put less salt in the bread, with the olives and cheese you don’t need it
  • cut up the olives, they were a bit big
  • put the cheese on top? or stir the lumps into the mix rather than onto the bottom of the dish? it came out warm like an upside down pizza with minimal topping, which did make it easy to handle, but cold it could have done with a little bit more oomph
  • think about other things like bits of fresh chilli or onion or fresh pepper, it was a good side dish but if it were a feature it needs a bit more texture and hidden surprises
  • look at the sort of things you top polenta with, after all, it’s the same thing really, just made into a cake
  • cut down the sugar a little bit but not too much, it balanced the salty stuff nicely – it’s too much for the plain bread, though
  • think about a sweet version with dried apricots and other fruit that you could serve with cold thick cream and warm honey

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Parmesan Gelato on Red Wine Toast with Balsamic Glaze

I'm trying to focus on more healthy food at the moment, but this was just too weird to pass on. It's a party dish, quantities are for 25 – 30 canape portions. I don't think you'd want to eat a lot of this … and it would take up a lot of space in the fridge to prepare. From delicious magazine, January 2004, recipe by Valli Little.

  • 150 gms grated Parmesan
  • 375 ml double cream
  • pinch of paprika
  • 250 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 125 ml red wine
  • olive oil
  • 1 -2 garlic cloves, peeled

Put the cheese, cream and paprika in a bowl of simmering water, stir until the Parmesan has melted, season. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing through with a spoon. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

Simmer the balsamic vinegar until reduced by half. Cool. (Or you can buy ready-made glaze, I've got some somewhere.)

Using a small ice-cream scoop, place scoops of the cheese gelato on a lined tray and return to the fridge.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Drizzle the bread slices with the red wine, brush with oil, lay out on a baking tray and cook 6 – 8 minutes until golden. Rub with the garlic while still warm. Cool.

To assemble – put a scoop of gelato onto each toast, drizzle with glaze.

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