Chi-town. The art. The Bean. The food. The place where "The Long Distance Kitchen" was born. There are few cities in this country as connected to a style of local food as Chicago. Deep Dish Pizza is this city's culinary trademark, and the empty delivery boxes from local pizzerias became the trademark of my trashcan during my seven week stay in Chicago.
In the immortal words of my favorite spokesman, "Pizza, pizza." And while that Caesar may be "Little", his words pack a big punch. If you were anything like me, pre-Chicago, you say "All pizza is equal to me - if you bring it, I will eat it" as you cram a slice of Domino's in your trap. And then the city of Chicago, in the form of an angry Lamisil style toe fungus monster, walks up to you and slaps that pathetic, limp slice of crap right out of your mouth. But ye needn't be frightened. That monster has a heart of gold. And, let's face it, you were asking for it - did you see what you were eating?
Everyone has a favorite kind of pizza and every major city believes they have a monopoly on the "best" kind. I used to believe New York, New Haven, and the northeast in general dominated the pizza market, but Chicago changed the game for me. In sticking with my classic indecisiveness, I now say that there is room at the "Best Pizza" table for ALL these places.
If you've never had REAL Chicago Deep Dish Pizza before, here's the low-down. The pizza is cooked in a round pizza PAN so that the crust goes up on the sides, but what really differentiates it is that it is built in an opposite fashion than the pizzas we are used to on the east coast. Cheese on the bottom, toppings on top of the cheese and then sauce on top. They don't put the cheese on top because of the longer baking time of the thicker pizza. If the cheese were on top, you run the risk of it burning in the oven.
I spent the beginning part of my seven week sit down in this midwest paradise trying to come up with a functional, accessible, homemade equivalent of the city's favorite dish, and I think I did just that. While there may be more intricate or authentic recipes out there, this one brings you from start to finish in roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes (with an hour and 45 minutes of that being waiting/wine drinking time) and gives you an ABSOLUTELY scrumptious homemade meal that will make your home feel and smell like an authentic pizzeria.
DEEP DISH PIZZA
1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp sugar
1 cup Bread Flour
3 Tbsp Corn Meal
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup of sliced fresh mozzarella
6-8 meatballs cut in half, or ANY topping of your choosing
1 to 1/2 cups of homemade or jarred tomato sauce
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2-3 Tbsp of fresh basil (rough chop, whole, or chiffonaded)
1. Combine the water, dry yeast, and sugar. Stir together to incorporate and then let rest for 10 minutes until the mixture "proofs" and becomes puffy on top. (The sugar feeds the yeast and helps it to activate).
2. In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the dry ingredients (bread flour, corn meal, and salt).
3. Once the yeast mixture has proofed, mix in the tablespoon of olive oil and then pour the liquid/yeast mixture into the bowl with your dry ingredients.
4. Mix by hand until incorporated and then knead until the dough is smooth. (Or, fit your mixer with the dough hook and mix on medium for 5 min.) Then let the dough rest in a covered bowl for 1 hour at room temperature. The dough should almost double in size.
5. Lightly oil the sides and bottom of an 8 inch springform pan and preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
6. Once the dough has risen, stretch it out and place it into the pan so that it covers the bottom and rises about one (to two) inches up the sides of your pan. Pre-bake the dough for 10 minutes.
7. After the dough has been pre-baked, remove it from the oven and lower the temperature to 400 degrees. Next, put in your mozzarella cheese slices in an even layer on the bottom of the dough. (You could also use the same amount of shredded cheese if you prefer).
Then add in your halved meatballs in an even layer (or any topping of your choice). Finally add 1 - 1 1/2 cups of your tomato sauce (depending on how high the "walls" of your crust are. You do not want the sauce to over flow the top.)
8. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Then, sprinkle on the shredded parmesan and chopped (or chiffonaded) basil and bake for 10 minutes more.
*To chiffonade basil, create a neat pile of basil leaves. Roll the leaves up the long way, like a cigarette, and thinly slice from one end to the other. You should end up with little curls of basil.
9. Let cool for approximately 10-15 minutes, slice, and serve!
Please check out the video, try out the recipe, and let me know how it goes and if you have any questions!
Love, peace, and cheesy grease,