Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

During Election Day 2008, I happened to be in Chicago for a Food and Beverage Conference for Hilton Hotels. I managed to get into Grant Park and watch the greatest speech since Kennedy's "Ask not..." speech or Martin Luther King's "I have a dream." Grant Park is just opposite the famous Hilton Chicago, and after soaking up the atmosphere (and a few beers) in the bar I made my way across the street with what seemed like the rest of the world. When the gates opened, people poured in, many sprinting ahead to try to get as close as possible to the stage. Some plopped down on the field, staking their claim as their comrades foraged through long lines for deep-dish pizza, hot cocoa and water. Every time a state was called for Obama - or whenever Grant Park, came up on the screens - the crowd went nuts. The atmosphere felt like an upscale Lollapalooza, except the throbbing music came in staccato bursts between CNN's Wolf Blitzer calling states as the election returns came in. The weather was unseasonably warm, so Obama's followers could believe that even God is smiling down benevolently on the Illinois Senator now President elect. Now I know that you've seen the rest on TV, so I won't bore you with my findings ... but I will talk about pie! Chicago. That's the first thing you are going to think of with regard to Deep Dish Pizza, and you are right. There seems to be no argument about that. It's Chicago where it was first created and it's Chicago where it's most popular. In fact, in Chicago, Deep Dish Pizza is literally and figuratively, numero uno. There's a wonderful story about the creation of Deep Dish Pizza, which goes like this: after World War II an American soldier who had done duty in Italy went home to Chicago, got a job in a bar and grill, and began experimenting with the recipe for pizza, which he had first tasted during his war service. Nice story, except for one thing. Deep dish pizza appeared in Chicago in the early 1940s and the war didn't end until 1945. Actually, Deep Dish Pizza is to Chicago what chili is to Cincinnati. There are more than 2,000 pizzerias in Chicago, most of them serving "deep dish" and many of them offshoots of a small original kitchen in an old part of town. The story that has not been disputed is that a Texan named Ike Sewell created the dish at his bar and grill named Pizzeria Uno in 1943. The pizza was so popular that to handle the crowds he had to open another place nearby called Pizzeria Due. By 1955 a restaurant just east of Michigan Avenue began serving deep dish pizza in a place called Gino's East, and it became popular with the fashionable crowds along Chicago's "Magnificent Mile." Meanwhile, two of Ike Sewell's employees were Rudy Malnati and his son Lou. In 1971 Lou and his wife Jean opened a pizzeria in the suburb of Lincolnwood, north of Chicago. The rest, as they say, is history. CHICAGO-STYLE DEEP DISH PIZZA The Crust (You'll need an electric mixer or food processor with a dough hook for this) 2 packages dry yeast ("Quick Rise") 2 cups tepid water (90 degrees F) cup salad oil 4 Tbs. olive oil cup cornmeal 5 cups flour In the mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the salad oil, the olive oil, the cornmeal and 3 cups of the flour. Beat or process for 10 minutes. Add the dough hook and mix in the rest of the flour. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes. Put the dough onto a plastic countertop or a cutting board and cover it with a very large metal bowl. Allow dough to rise until double in bulk. Punch down and allow to rise again. Punch down again. Oil two large round deep dish pans or cake pans. Divide dough between the pans. Put a little olive oil on your fingers and press and push the dough to the edge and up the sides of each pan. The dough should be 1/8 inch throughout. The Filling 3/4 to 1 lb. sliced mozzarella cheese 1 28-oz. can of plum tomatoes, coarsely crushed 1 tsp. basil 1 tsp. oregano 2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (according to taste) salt grated Parmesan cheese 3 Tbs. olive oil Layer the mozzarella cheese all over the bottom of the pies. Next add the tomatoes, basil, oregano and garlic. Add salt to taste. Liberally sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and drizzle the olive oil on top. Bake the pizzas in a pre-heated 475 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden and gooey and the crust is a light golden brown. AND FINALLY... A man was telling his co-worker one day that the company was transferring him to Chicago. He explained that he was going to quit before he had to move there. When asked why, he replied that he was just too afraid of all the crime even though he would be passing up a big salary increase and greater benefits. His co-worker said to reconsider and that Chicago was a magnificent city, with world class museums, loaded with a great history, sites, close to Canada, good public transportation, etc. Then he said: "Why I myself worked in Chicago for almost 10 years and in all that time I never ever had a problem with crime while I was working." The first asked, "What did you do there?" To which the other replied, "I was tail-gunner on a bread truck."