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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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.)

Gujerati Snacks

From Prashad's in Bradford, we had samosas, some kind of battered fried sandwich with a garlicky pureed veg filling, round dumplings filled with spiced mashed potato. Dhokla, patra, snacks. I made a lassi with fresh coriander, garlic, fresh green chilli and a pinch of salt. Fresh baby tomato, and a little raita sauce.

I also made a quick trashy hot chaat:

Fry:
1 tin new potatoes, drained and cut into small lumps
1 tin pinto beans, or chickpeas, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Sprinkle with powdered hing and fenugreek.
After about 5 minutes add half a tin of chopped tomatoes, cook til thickened.
Stir well and add 2 handfuls Bombay Mix or your favourite Indian crispy snack.
Heat through, take off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons natural yoghourt.
Put in serving dish and top with dollop of tamarind sauce.

Served with warm rotis.

With a selection of sweets to finish, I am absolutely podged.

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Fake Baked Beans

John came home late and tired the other night, wanting comfort food for supper. There were no tins of baked beans in the house, so I made him this.

Put a bit of oil in a heavy frying pan, cut up a small tin of PEK or Spam (or some fresh bacon if you've got it, or leftover ham), and fry it, along with half an onion, chopped quite small.
When it's hot and starting to crisp, add a drained tin of random beans (haricot this time, but borlotti, cannelini, or kidney would be fine), and a sprinkling of dry seasonings (paprika, black pepper, thyme, mixed spice). Stir it all up, and add the wet things. A tin of tomatoes, a big squeeze of tomato paste, garlic puree, a glug of BBQ sauce, some Henderson's Relish or Worcestershire sauce. A cup of chicken stock or some water and stock concentrate, or salt if necessary. A spoonful of brown sugar.

Stir it all together and cook for a bit, squidging the tomatoes so they break up. You should end up with a hot dish of beans and meat chunks coated thickly in a slightly spicy, sweet, red sauce. Taste it as you go, and add the things you like. Indian chutneys, brown sauce, ketchup, treacle, chilli sauce, fresh herbs, chunks of cheese.

The whole thing took about quarter of an hour and was very well received – he's asked for it again so I'm doing proper beans with pork belly for tea tonight. Even though it is the middle of summer.

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