Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Taste of Chicago: Deep Dish Pizza

I fell in love with Chicago. Hard. Not enough to do anything rash. I remain faithful to my beloved Seattle. But something got to me in that toddlin' town that hasn't happened in many other places. I've been to cities where I've said, "I could live there" and mean it. But with Chicago, I kinda actually do want to live there. Again, no rash moves are being planned. Should I, however, fall into a bucket of money in the near future, purchase of a superfantastic downtown Chicago condo would be the first order of business.

So what was it about Chicago that got to me so much? I'm still mulling that. Certainly it has to do with the friends we have there, who are intelligent, generous, kind and funny people. But it was also the way the city felt, and that's something harder to pinpoint. I just liked the way it felt on the streets, the way it felt to sit on the 49th floor of the Marina Towers, drink my coffee and gaze at the drawbridges over the Chicago River. It was something to do with the way the new architecture of the city lives cheek by jowl with the older buildings. It had to do with the livability of the city...how the downtown was a neighborhood full of people of all ages and colors with the necessary amenities of laundries and groceries and such within walking distance. And that is something (and I've lived downtown, so I know) Seattle has yet to really manage. The city itself is quite livable, the downtown core, not so much.

But as I mull the sights and sounds of Chicago and how they got to me, I do know that one part of my new-found love owes to one magical thing: deep dish pizza.

I love pizza. We have it just about every Friday night. Pizza and a movie. It's our thing. And both The Spouse and The Child make a good pie. (So do I but I like letting the pizza making thing be theirs). We make our own, using a basic foccocia dough recipe that I've had for years. The Spouse has his own special pizza sauce, which is nothing more than this:

The Spouse's Pizza Sauce
1 tin organic tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
2 or so T. dried oregano
2 or so T. dried basil
smidge of salt
glug of red wine

He lightly cooks the garlic in a little olive oil and then adds in the other ingredients and lets them slowly cook on the stove during the whole time he's preparing the pizza dough. It's a rich sauce, dark with the herbs and wine and full of flavor.

Our standard pie usually includes sauteed onions, roasted red peppers, olives, some sort of pizza meat (pepperoni, sausage or sometimes prosciutto) and a cheese blend of fontina and mozzarella. Sometimes there are fewer ingredients, sometimes more depending on whim and hunger. The crust is always nice and plump. I don't care much for thin crust pizza...I like the luxury of a nice bready base for all the oozing, melting toppings. I am also one of those people who rarely eats my crust ends. Which it's why it's sorta funny to me that I would become so enamored of deep dish, because crust ends are key there.

A quick Google search shows me that there are 2 places in Seattle that make deep dish pizza. Both are in the north end of town. I live in the south end. I began to lament that deep dish is something I would have to work to get. I love it, but I also want to enjoy it in the comfort of my own home, in front of my own big screen TV.

I whined about this to The Spouse. "I know how to make deep dish pizza," he said, oh so casually. 16 years and he still has the power to surprise.

"You do???"

He looked at me with surprise, like his deep dish pizza making abilities were legend and I hadn't been paying attention. "Sure. I used to work in a pizza place that made deep dish. It was called "Chicago's", remember?"

And then I did remember. I remembered the place, used to be located near the Seattle Center and always busy. I also vaguely recalled that in true old Chicago style there was some nefarious reason why the place eventually closed. The upshot of all this, of course, is that The Spouse offered to make that week's pizza in the style I so craved.

I asked if he had a recipe. He looked at me oddly. "The one I always use is fine. I just need a deep dish pan".

"Like a cake pan?"

"Sure".

(While I was grocery shopping I picked up a couple of 9" pans...nice ones with a flanged edge. I didn't think my 8" pans were quite enough to hold what I dreamt of).

Friday came and The Child was sleeping over at a friends. We'd have a whole pie to ourselves. Bliss.

He started the sauce and began the dough.

Pizza Dough

2 T. yeast
2 t. sugar
1 c. warm water
2 T. olive oil
2 t. salt
4 c. (or more) all-purpose flour

Place yeast, sugar and water in bowl of a standing mixer and let sit until yeast begins to foam and bubble.

Add in the olive oil and salt.

With dough hook attachment, begin working in the flour to form a ball of dough that holds it's shape and is not sticky.

Turn out on a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic.

Oil the mixing bowl and return dough to it, turning once to coat. (Yes, you read that right. Put the dough back in the mixing bowl. There is no sense in dirtying up 2 bowls when making bread).

Cover with a damp towel and set in a warm spot to rise until double. Punch down and let rest for a few minutes before proceeding with the pizza-making.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Unos Pizza in Chicago lays claim to being the birthplace of deep dish. One of their signature tricks is that the cheese goes on the crust first, before the sauce. So The Spouse tried that, laying slabs of mozzarella down before giving them a (slighty too thick) coat of sauce and topping it all off with some fresh basil leaves.

About 25 minutes later it was done.

It was glorious, the crust perfectly brown and crispy, the cheese thick and silky. There was, as I mentioned, a bit too much sauce on the pie but because it was on top it was easy to scrap off. And the extra made a nice dipping sauce for the ends of crust, which I uncharacteristically ate.

The only other note: next time we'll have to make at least 2 as the pair of us dispatched this tidy little pie with ease. A taste of the Windy City in the Emerald City. I am satisfied.

8 comments:

Jon said...

Awwww. You've made me so happy and proud to live where I do. What a gift!

Lorraine said...

You should be very proud. It's a great town. The fact that I can now have a bit of Chicago when the mood strikes is a good thing. Now if I could just make my morning view be of the drawbridges over the Chicago river...

Auld Hat said...

Glorious indeed! Yuh-hum-muh-hee!

Lorraine said...

It was, Hat.

Willym said...

The two years we spent in Chicago were amongst the best times in our lives. It is America's best kept secret - a world class orchestra, a great opera company, great restaurants, theatre galore, two baseball teams, great restaurants, a football team, a hockey team, a basketball team, great restaurants, a zoo, the Art Institue, excellent museums, jazz clubs, Oak Beach, the waterfront, did I mentioned great restaurants?

And the people - friendly, warm and welcoming - damn we knew all our neighbours, people talked to you in stores, elevators, on the street. Our last night at the Chicago Lyric the two people who had sat beside us at every performance took us out for a drink to say goodbye!

After we moved back to Canada I intentional would arrange company training session in Chicago and bring colleagues in from Canada and the US. Most of them always went back on vacation at some point.

Maybe I should just get a job with the Chicago Tourist Office

Lorraine said...

Willym, there it is. It's a world-class city plus all the screen-door slamming, sittin' on the porch friendliness of the Midwest. And yeah...the restaurants, the restaurants....

Although, parenthetically, I do need to visit Quebec sometime...my maternal grandfather was born there and I've always heard such lovely things about it. Plus, you know, it's close to Chicago!

Willym said...

Lorraine

Montreal and Quebec City have some incredible restaurants and are realy "worth the detour" in the old Michelin parlance. In fact the whole province is pretty damn nice.

However we leave it next week for the joys of 4 years in Rome. No shortage of restaurants or things to see/do there.

Lorraine said...

Willym, Chicago, Quebec and now Rome? Clearly you were born under a curse. I hope you have the grace to bravely bear this cross. Poor things. (seethes with jealousy).

Bon voyage!