I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Zen and the Art of Pizza Making

Last night's dinner went well, although I am now thouroughly sick of ham. I will have to wrap it up and put it in the freezer. We'll have bean soup or something in the next couple weeks. Also New England Boiled Dinner is a good fall recipe.

Tonight I have to go to a meeting and there is food served at the meeting, so no cooking. That is good though, because I am planning on making pizza Friday night, and before I post the recipe there is much explaining to do.

Yeah everybody likes Pizza Hut, Dominos, Little Ceasars or their local favorite joint, and thats just fine. I like those places too. People from St. Louis like St. Louis style pizza. People from New York like New York style pizza. People from Italy think that we're all idiots and that their pizza is the only pizza. More power to them. I have eaten pizza in all of those places (except Italy) and a few others. I enjoy them all because they are different and each has its own good qualities. In fact, I make pizza at home in all of those different styles and I have spent years studying the pizzas from different places and learning how to make them. As we move along in this blog, I will go into each different kind.

That brings me to a point. The pizza I will be making Friday night is in my humble opinion, the best pizza that can be found anywhere on earth. Like I said, I'm not knocking pizza from other places. I enjoy those styles of pizza as well, but seriously folks, Chicago Style pizza is the best. To be even more specific, Gino's East Chicago Style pizza is the best. Let me say that again, just in case you missed it. Gino's East Pizza is the best.

I first ate Chicago style pizza when I was like 9 or 10 on a trip to Chicago. I wasn't all that impressed because I hadn't yet developed a palate for anything beyond Pizza Hut or Godfathers. So I sort of forgot about it. The next time I ate Chicago Style pizza was when I was a junior in college. I went to Chicago to interview at Northwestern Medical School. Right down the street from there was Gino's East. It has since moved, but when I went there for the first time it was right down the street from Northwestern Medical School. I was completely blown away by Gino's East pizza. It was so much better than any pizza I had eaten that it immediately became my mission to eat at all of the different places in Chicago and learn how to make their pizzas.

At that time we had the internet but there was no Google and no Amazon.com. It really was the olden times. I got back to college and went straight to a book store looking for books on Chicago Style pizza. I was expecting to find a book that had recipes for all of the different pizza places. Nothing like that existed. I scoured the internet and was able to come up with a couple of basic recipes for Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. I tried some of them out, and the best one approximated Uno's Pizza pretty well but did not taste or look anything like Gino's. Plus I was using the wrong pan and I just didn't have it figured out. So I took a weekend trip back to Chicago and ate at Gino's, paying real close attention to the pans, how they served it, etc. I tried to find pans like the ones that Gino's uses, but the closest I could find was a straight sided round cake pan. Let me tell you, it really was the stone ages back then. There really wasn't any real interest in making pizza at home back then. But the straight sided cake pan worked pretty darn well.

For the next several years I continued to experiment trying to make Gino's East Pizza. I got closer and closer, but I couldn't get the crust to look right. They have a real yellow crust that has corn meal in it, but not big chunks of corn meal, real fine ones. The other problem that I discovered with using corn meal in a pizza crust is that if you use too much it makes the crust taste grainy.

I ended up going to Northwestern for medical school and I continued to work on my pizza. While I was there I found a book called The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook.
Its an awesome book that really helped with some of the baking problems. I also learned for the first time how to make a stuffed crust pizza like they serve at Giordano's. The author goes through the whole process of how to make pizzas and has tons of photographs. If you are new to making Chicago-Style Pizza, I highly suggest that you buy this book and digest it. You may have difficulty finding it in bookstores outside of Chicago, but you need to get it. Just click on the highlighted words and your browser will be pointed to Amazon.com. They have it for about as cheap as I've seen it anywhere, and if you order it from them it will be at your house lickedy split.

The other thing you need to do if you want to make serious Chicago-Style Pizza is eat it. You have to go to Chicago and actually eat at the original restaraunts. I know that some of the places have metastasized to cities around the country. For instance you can go to Uno's Pizzeria in most cities now. The problem is that the pizza served at these little satellite places is in no way anything like the pizza that you get at the real Uno's. It is pretty tasty, provided that you aren't used to the real thing. I would suggest that you proceed with caution, however. If you have not eaten Chicago-Style pizza before, I would take it easy and make sure that you have a supporting friend or family member with you, or perhaps many more. The chances are, if you have only eaten Dominos or Papa Johns or Pizza hut, when you bite into a real Chicago-Style pizza your head will explode. It is just too delicious for most people to comprehend. I have seen some real meltdowns at Gino's, believe me.