Saturday, January 28, 2012

Deeeeeeeep dish pizza at home

I've heard many different descriptions of what "real" Chicago-style pizza is supposed to be.  Call this whatever you like - it's thick, meaty, cheesy deliciousness that you'll need a fork to eat!  Allow plenty of time for this recipe - it's not hard, but there are steps to perfection and pauses in between.

In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, dissolve 1 package regular yeast in 1 cup very-warm-to-touch water.  Add 1 teaspoon sugar to kick-start the yeast action.  Stir gently and let this combo sit for about 10 minutes.

About yeast:  I think regular yeast works better than rapid rise.  It does take longer, but it seems to be more reliable.  I've had a few failures recently using rapid rise yeast, and rarely have a problem with regular.  I like the texture of the dough better - and I'd say it even tastes better but that might be pushing it.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of bread or regular flour, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add the yeast mixture.  If the yeast + water looks exactly as it did when you started - your yeast might not be in a rising mood.  Did you check the date?  Pay attention to the water temp?

Beat with a mixer for 30 seconds on low, scraping the bowl, and then 2 minutes on high - scraping often.  If you are using a stand mixer with a dough hook (preferred - it's just easier), add another 1 1/2 cups flour and continue to beat/knead for 5 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if it seems too sticky.  If  you are using an hand mixer, grab a wooden spoon at this point and stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can, then knead by hand on a heavily floured surface for 5 minutes. 

Put the dough in a greased bowl - I have one that I love love love for rising dough.  A nice heavy ceramic one works wonderfully.  Make sure the top of the dough is also 'greased' - flip it over to cover all surfaces - and cover the bowl very loosely with some plastic wrap.  It should be so loose that if the dough rises past the top of the bowl, the plastic will rise with it.

Let rise in a warm place until double.  That's about an hour for regular yeast; about 1/2 hour for rapid rise.

Punch down - really, just take your fist and punch it; then gather it around, flip it over and punch it a second time, and "let rest" for 5 minutes.  This lets the little yeast cells regroup.

Turn the dough into a heavy 10" round cake pan or 10" springform pan that has been generously oiled.  Using your hands (maybe oiled a little, if it's sticky), press and spread the dough evenly over the bottom and 1 1/2" up the side of the pan.
Cover again...let rise again, until it doubles.  All this rising and doubling is what makes it light and bread-like.  A half hour should do it.

In the meantime, cook 8 oz. Italian sausage (or regular - or hot - your choice, of course).  I cooked up the whole pound and am going to put the crumbles in with my morning eggs sometime in the next couple of days.  Drain the fat and pat with paper towels to remove as much fat as you can.

Assembly time!

Cover the dough surface with 12 oz. mozzerella cheese.  Yes, that's a lot.  Just do it, you won't be sorry.  The delicate flavor of fresh buffalo mozzerella, sliced, would be fabulous...did you know that at one time, all mozzarella cheese (in old-time Italy) was made from the milk of water buffaloes?  You can find buffalo mozzarella in the U.S. in specialty/cheese stores, but it's generally 50% buffalo milk, 50% cow's milk these days.  The cheese called "fresh mozzarella" (100% cow's milk) is more readily available, packed in water or whey.  I'm using grated mozzarella from the grocery store...and expecting it to work just fine!

Spoon the crumbled sausage, sliced pepperoni, and mushrooms (and/or other toppings of your choice.  Green pepper?  Anchovies? 

Top with one 14.5 oz can of crushed tomatoes.  Sprinkle with 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried crushed oregano) and 1 Tablespoon fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried crushed basil). 

I rushed it a bit, and put the sauce on right after the cheese, but before the meats.  I don't think it matters.  We'll see... (Note later:  it didn't!)

The final layer - 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.  And maybe just a little more mozzarella...

Bake in a 500 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until edges of the crust are crisp and golden brown, and the filling is hot all the way through.  Cover with foil during the last 10 minutes of baking to assure that the edges aren't too browned.

Cool 10 minutes if you can wait that long.  If you are using a springform pan, remove the sides - cut into wedges - and by now I don't think you'll have to call anyone to come to the kitchen for a slice.  They'll be waiting at the table.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not your average chicken salad.

Chicken salad sandwiches can be so...normal.  So average.  Many restaurants have chicken salad in some form, and don't you wonder if they're all buying it from Sam's?  I like "that kind" of chicken salad; there's a sense of calm predictability to it. You order it or buy it pre-made when you know what you want, standard chicken salad, and there it is on the menu or in the store's deli.  But chicken salad doesn't have to be boring!  From olives to cheeses to cranberries to bacon, there's a world of taste to explore. 

Preparing a great chicken salad sandwich includes ample consideration of  bread or other conveyance - you can serve it on a croissant, on crackers, on a bed of lettuce, on flatbread, pita, or flour tortilla wrap. Or on a bun, on fresh homemade bread or on toast. Make it on whole wheat, rye, brown or egg bread.  How about presenting it in a cut-out tomato or other adaptable vegetable bowl?  The serving factor can take it from very simple to very special!  Let me know your creative serving ideas, and we'll pass them along.

  The preparation of ingredients involves a lot of chopping.  If you happen to have a "chopper" like mine -  purchased years ago when my friend Susan was a Pampered Chef lady and we all went to soooo many P.C. parties - you'll have the chopping done quickly. I enjoy using it, because who doesn't like to release some stress with that familiar "Wham! Wham! Wham!" to the kitchen counter.  Consider getting your chopper out from time to time and testing it...just for fun and aggression release!

Of course, there are many versions of hand choppers and electric choppers..and you might prefer to use a knife and cutting board - especially if you like chunky bites!

Here's an easy recipe for chicken salad with a twist!  Green olives give this ultra-eggy chicken salad a boost of unexpected flavor.  We concocted this blend when we considered T's love for olives along with my enjoyment of more than the usual amount of hard-boiled eggs in chicken salad.

CEO (Chicken, Egg and Olive) Salad

Chop, by knife, chopper, or grinder: 2 cups of cooked chicken, 4 eggs, and 1/2 cup green olives with pimentos (drained), and mix together in a medium-size bowl.

Mix in a small bowl 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 1/2 cup real mayonnaise, and pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon).  Added salt will make this a little too salty because the olives add enough of that.

Blend together - adding the mayonnaise mixture a little at a time, because you don't want it overdressed.

It's that easy!  And, like soup, even better if it rests overnight before creating your special sandwich.

So, maybe you don't like olives.  Think up your own combo, according to your favorite tastes!

Let's call "Basic Chicken Salad" the chicken and the mayo.  I scoured the web for other ideas.

Of course there are the classics:
  • Celery
  • Onion - white, red, or green
  • Chopped sweet pickles or pickle relish
  • Hard-boiled eggs, chopped
But you are fearless - so you might try:
  • Seedless grapes
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Crispy bacon
  • Toasted almond slivers
  • Capers – drained
  • Potato stick snacks
  • Water chestnuts
  • Radishes
  • Nuts – walnuts, pecans, cashews, pine nuts 
  • Sesame seeds
  • Fruits- apple slices, pear, raisins, cranberries, craisins, blueberries, tomato, avocado, olives, mandarin oranges, cherries
  • Vegetables – asparagus, cucumber, broccoli
  • Cheese – hard cheese, grated or thin slices of soft cheese; how about feta?  Yum!
And so many flavors you can add to your mayo!
  • Herbs – basil, parsley, tarragon, chervil, chives, sage, mint
  • Spices – ginger, dry mustard, honey mustard, paprika, oregano, curry
  • Chutney
  • Jam or preserves
  • Honey
  • Citrus juice – lemon, orange, grapefruit
  • Peanut butter  (Yes!  We love peanut butter!)
  • Vinegar
  • Soy Sauce
  • Hot Sauce
  • Maple syrup
  • Yogurt
Experiment!  Keep it simple - you don't really want to overpower the chicken.  It's all about challenging yourself to find new flavor combos - while enjoying the variety of tastes.

 *I love taking photos of food, but I'm thanking the web for these shots - especially the one with blueberries!