Chicago Deep Dish

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

It’s probably no secret that pizza is one of our family’s favorite foods. Ordering a pizza on Friday night was our routine for literally years when we were first married. Both of my sons worked for a time in our favorite pizza joint where we used to live. We still enjoy a good restaurant pie from time to time, whether thin and crackly crust, thick and chewy or Chicago style deep dish.

We’ve also always made our own pizzas at home, first using store-bought crusts, then eventually making them from scratch. Finding the dough recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day made a huge difference in the quality of our home-made pizzas.

In addition to baking pizza on the grill we love this version of deep dish, and have been making it for the better part of a decade now. It draws on a recipe from Lou Malati’s in Chicago.

I start by prepping a ball of one-quarter of the dough from a batch of the AB5 recipe linked above. My iron skillet gets a liberal spray of olive oil, and then a good dusting of corn meal before the dough is spread out in the bottom. I press it down and out until it comes up the side of the pan about a quarter to half an inch.

Then comes a layer of Provolone slices to cover the bottom. After that, the rest of the toppings go on in repeating layers – shredded spinach, sliced mushrooms, shredded Mozzarella, canned diced tomatoes with herbs and garlic. Then finally it gets topped with some grated Parm or Romano, and maybe a tiny grind of black pepper and some coarse salt. About 30 to 40 minutes in a 425 °F oven, and it’s ready.

We’ve added other ingredients in the past, black olives, sausage, pepperoni or what have you. But this simple combination of spinach, mushrooms, cheese and tomatoes is my favorite. The bright tartness of the tomatoes is a perfect counterpoint to the earthy, savory veggies and cheese. It’s hearty, satisfying and the first bite literally makes my mouth water.

With the dough made ahead of time, this meal is not terribly labor intensive either. I think it took me about fifteen minutes to put together, and then maybe another five to assemble green salads on the side while the pie was cooling after it came out of the oven. Quick and delicious is always welcome on a Friday evening after a long work week.

This is another dish that I’d encourage you to try. It could hardly be simpler to prepare, and I guarantee that it’ll hit the spot. If you’re hesitant to make your own dough from scratch, you shouldn’t be, but you could probably use a boxed dough mix, or even buy a ball or two from your favorite local pizzeria if you’re on good terms with them.

Buon appetito!

Grilled Pizza

Sunday Dinner – 15 July 2018

This week we made pizza for Sunday Dinner. We finally have the process pretty well down.

I made a quick, no cook sauce from two cans of tomato sauce, one can of tomato paste, some oregano, basil, garlic, sugar, paprika, salt and pepper. We followed our usual process otherwise, as described in these earlier posts.

Easy Foolproof Grilled Pizza

How to Make Pizza on the Grill

After I par cooked the crusts, Claudia topped one with three cheese blend, another with veggies and another with fresh basil and mozzarella. Then they went back out to the plancha on the Weber Genesis to finish.

The crust this time was the best yet – a perfect combination of crunchy on the outside with a little dense chew inside.

Another Malnati Style Veggie Pizza

We used up the last of this batch of dough to do another Lou Malnati style deep dish pizza for Friday night.

I’ve adapted the recipe from this one, which was on an episode of Throwdown.

Easy Foolproof Grilled Pizza

I’ve learned a lot since originally posting about how to make pizza on the grill. I think I finally have a foolproof process that can consistently turn out great pies.

One of the most labor intensive parts of the process, for me, has been rolling out and stretching the dough. This time around, I put each dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper and rolled it out with a french pin. For three crusts, this probably saved me half-an-hour’s work.

The second tricky part of my old process was getting the dough on to the grill. The double parchment made this easy too. I simply placed the dough, paper and all, on a preheated plancha (with the grill at about 500 F), thus avoiding the treacherous “commit and flip” ritual. After a minute or so, I used a spatula to flip the dough, and one sheet of the paper came right off. I sprayed the dough with olive oil at this point, and after another minute flipped again, removed the other paper and sprayed that side as well. Then it was a simple matter of turning the dough occasionally as it baked, until one side had been grilled for three to four minutes and the other side for two to three.

At that point, we topped the side that had been cooked longest, and put the pizza back on the plancha for another two or three minutes to finish. If we had been using toppings that required more thorough cooking (sausage or whatever) we would have par-cooked those in a pan ahead of time.

This process was a lot less hassle than what I was doing before, and it avoided the problem of the crusts getting a little too charred from being directly over the flames.

I used a cast iron plancha on the Weber Genesis, but if you’re cooking over charcoal, you could use any heavy pan or a pizza stone. Just be sure to get everything up to a high temperature before you start cooking.

Do you cook pizza outdoors? I’d love to hear about your recipes and process. Leave a note in the comments.

How To Make Pizza On The Grill

pizza-on-the-grill

There’s truly nothing much tastier than pizza that’s been cooked on a grill, and there’s also nothing much simpler to prepare that can yield such a variety of styles and flavors. I first made pizza on a grill a couple years ago. It was fine, but honestly, the process was pretty arduous. After further research and a lot of trial (and error) I think I’ve found a foolproof process for turning out consistently outstanding pizza.

Choose your dough wisely. My early efforts at pizza on the grill involved boxed dough mixes. They work, but there was a lot of time and effort involved, and the results weren’t as tasty or as crunchy as I’d have liked.

I would recommend that you get friendly with the folks at a local pizzeria, and see if they’ll sell you a big ball of dough. If you’re a good customer and explain what you’re wanting to do with it, chances are you may even end up with enough dough for several grilled pizzas for free. At least, that’s what happened to me.

I would also highly recommend the basic pizza dough recipe from the authors of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Once you learn their method, you can mix up a batch in just a few minutes with very little effort. The dough will make five or six nice sized pizzas and will keep in the refrigerator for a couple weeks if you’re not doing them all at one time.

Use Parchment Paper! Initially I tried putting my dough on a pizza peel and sliding it off onto the grill, but I found that with thinner crusts this method results in a glommy mess instead of a nice crust. Nowadays (since my wife prefers thin crust) I stretch or roll my dough out on a sheet of parchment paper. It’s relatively easy to get it upside down on the grill with the dough still in decent shape. After thirty seconds or so, the paper peels right off, leaving you with a tidy crust.

Pre-cook whatever needs it. The simplest way to cook pizza on a grill involves baking the dough, then topping it, and then returning it to the grill to finish. You won’t want to overcook the crust, so any toppings that need much cooking should be mostly done ahead of time. Uncooked meats or any other toppings that you wouldn’t want to eat raw (onions, in my case) should be done to the point that they can be finished with indirect heat in two or three minutes.

Having mentioned all of that, here’s my step-by-step process when it’s time to grill.

Step 1: Stretch your dough. I get a ball of dough a little bigger than a softball and let it rest at room temperature for a bit. I flour the parchment paper, set on the dough ball and flour it. I like to use a French Rolling Pin to flatten out my dough, but some people have luck simply stretching it out from the center with their fingertips, or even (God help us) tossing it in the air to stretch. This looks like fun, but I’ll leave it to more adventurous souls than me. I find that I can get the dough to an even 1/8″ thickness that is nearly round by using the pin.

Step 2: Oil it. I use a blast or two of spray oil on the top on my dough once I have it rolled out on the parchment. Either olive or canola has worked fine for me. I think the olive may add a little more flavor. The lower smoke point doesn’t matter, because you’ll be watching the bake pretty closely anyway. Just don’t oversaturate the dough with oil. A little bit does the trick.

Step 3: Have your grill hot. I’ll preheat my grill on high for about ten minutes before I’m ready to start cooking, clean the grates with a wire brush, and then back the heat down to medium/high. On my Weber Genesis, this means all three main burners on full during warm up, then turned down half way when it’s time to cook.

Step 4: Cook the top first. When you’re ready to put your dough on the grill, aim, “commit and flip” as they say. You don’t need a pizza stone or griddle or anything of the sort. Just get the dough down on the grill, directly over the heat, as quickly as you can and get the lid closed. About thirty seconds later, open the lid and use your tongs to tug gently at the edge of the parchment. If it pulls up easily remove it. If it’s being stubborn, close the lid for a little while longer and then try again. You’ll want to keep an eye on the crust as it bakes, checking every half-minute or minute. Use your tongs to lift up one of the edges. When the crust releases easily from the grill and you’re able to lift it with your tongs, rotate it about a quarter turn so that if there are any hot spots it cooks more evenly. Total cooking time on this side will likely be around 5 or 6 minutes. At this point you can flip the crust over, and let it cook a minute or two on the other side. Remove it from the grill after this. The side that you cooked first is the one where the toppings go.

Step 5: Finish it indirect. I usually cook several pizzas when I’m grilling them, and it works best for me to do one crust at a time, and then when they’re all finished, top them and cook each pizza on its own. So for this part, I turn off my middle burner, put the topped pizza in the center of the grill, and let convection warm everything up. The grill grates will remain hot enough to finish the bottom of the crust, but it’s less likely to get overly charred. Also, this method gives all of the gooey topping goodness time to melt together and finish cooking (if there’s any need for that). Five minutes is the longest I’ve needed to cook a pie at this final step, but it may take considerably less.

The pizza shown at the top of this post is a chicken and ranch dressing pizza we made a few weeks ago. It had a little thicker crust than I like to make now, but it was incredibly delicious. I left off the tomato sauce altogether and topped the pizza with shredded mozzarella cheese, diced tomatoes, cubed grilled chicken, ranch dressing and some seasonings (salt, pepper, oregano).

Really though, you can use just about anything for topping. My favorite is a pizza with a nice thin layer of sauce, some shredded Italian cheeses, and a rosemary-based seasoning that we usually use for olive oil dipping sauce. Hard to believe that something as simple as that can taste as good as it does.

Believe me, once you get this process down you’ll be hooked. In the time it would take for your order to arrive from one of those cardboard pizza chains, you can be feasting on a proper pie that will put their product to shame. All it takes is a grill, a little preparation and a box of parchment paper.