When the moon hits your eye…deep dish pizza

Chicago style deep-dish pizza

Kate’s pizza poll last week started quite a debate around here. GH hails from Chicago so he voted for Chicago style deep-dish pizza and New York style pizza got my vote. GH got very sassy about how Chicagoans don’t refer to their pizza as “Chicago style” while I tauntingly called the deep-dish pizza a casserole…ouch!

Actually I love deep-dish pizza…it’s more about the sauce and the crust than the toppings. If done correctly it should all meld together in a crusty, cheesy, saucy extravaganza that weighs so much you can barely lift it. That’s Chicago though…all about excess. Once I insulted his pizza there was no end to the (ahem) discussion. I heard about the two months he worked at a pizzeria, about his expertise in making the dough and the sauce…all of this coming from the mouth of a man who can barely boil water and who’s idea of making dinner involves…wait for it… reservations.

I knew that I could make a deep-dish pizza every bit as good as anything GH made as a teenager and just as good as Pizzeria Uno, the famous Chicago pizzeria that claims to invented the deep-dish pizza. I cruised the interwebs for a recipe and I turned up one that claimed to be the real thing. I checked a few details with GH, like the amount of cornmeal in the dough and the ratio of oil to water for the dough. He claimed that deep-dish pizza has no cornmeal in its crust. We discussed that for a bit, and then I asked him if they used sliced or grated cheese when they put it down first. “You mean last, don’t you?” he said, and that’s when I knew we were talking about two different pizzas…he made “pan pizza” when he worked at the pizzeria. Pan pizza is like a normal pizza just flabbier and cooked in a pan. But the toppings follow the typical order of crust, sauce, toppings, cheese. According to my memory, and the recipe, there is definitely corn meal and olive oil in the crust, the order of toppings is crust, cheese, topping, sauce, and it is baked in a deep, heavy pan, similar to a cast-iron skillet. Thank god for Wikipedia, otherwise we’d still be discussing deep-dish vs. pan pizza.

Chicago style deep-dish pizza

Actually the recipe from the interwebs seemed spot on but a little large so I pared it down to make just one pizza. I mixed the dough together and popped it into the refrigerator, pulled the Italian sausage from the freezer, and checked to make sure I had mozzarella cheese. About 8 hours later and 90 minutes before we wanted to eat I pulled the dough from the refrigerator and smooshed it out into a thick round circle. I draped it over a well oiled cast iron skillet and nudged it about until it rested on the bottom and against the sides with no gaps or tightness. The edges needed a trim so I rolled a rolling pin across the top edge of the pan to sever the dough exactly at the top. Wikipedia says that the crust should be par baked but I didn’t…it seems like an odd thing to do and the recipe didn’t mention it.

Chicago style deep-dish pizza

I shaped the Italian sausage into loose little nuggets about 1″ in diameter, and browned them in a skillet over medium heat. I used about a 1/2 pound of sausage and while you could use more I really tried to avoid over-topping it…less is more.

Chicago style deep-dish pizza

The sauce was stunningly easy. I squeezed whole, peeled romas to break them into chunks and combined them with the pureed romas, and let it all drain for about 5 minutes or so. The sauce is such a significant part of this pizza that you don’t want to skimp on it so make sure you have plenty…I’ll give you quantities in the recipe.

The first layer of the pizza is cheese…not grated, sliced. I was hesitant to use a lot of cheese, I think next time I’ll use more…it should take almost a half pound of cheese for a pizza this size. The next layer is the sausage, followed by the sauce…I just scooped up those tomatoes and generously layered them across the cheese and sausage, then I topped it with Italian seasonings and shoved it into a 475F oven (450F convection). It baked for 35 minutes and in retrospect I should have checked it at 25 minutes…but I was worried that because it was so thick and big it might be under baked. Let it cool for as long as you can stand it, then have a slice…but this is obviously one pizza you should eat with a fork.

I’m actually making this pizza again tonight. After writing about it today I find that I really want to eat it again, plus I want to see if the dough can be made at 3:30 in the afternoon, left out on the counter to rise and then baked 2.5 hours later…I usually decide what to cook when I get home, sometimes I think ahead, but not lately. Other than the long rise on the dough this is a fast and easy dinner. Plus it was a big hit with everyone, even GH.

The second pizza was good too. No problem with the shortened rising time…it may have sacrificed a tiny bit of flavor but not enough to be a disappointment…it was devoured almost instantly.

Click here for a printer friendly recipe.

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