The Markel Family Tour di Pizza

Today we wrapped up the first-ever Markel Family Tour di Pizza!

Last year, we came up with an idea to try lots of different styles of pizza from places we don’t normally frequent. We decided the perfect day to start this event was on MAR10 Day (March 10), and we decided to kick it off with Jet’s Detroit-style pizza, which was delicious!

On Friday I made Chicago-style pizza, since there’s just no place around here that makes it as well as I do. This was definitely the most familiar item on our list, but you can’t have a Tour di Pizza without stopping in the Windy City!

On Saturday we had the craziest day of our experiment with California-style take and bake pizzas from California Pizza Kitchen. Their pizzas are pretty small, so we tried three varieties…the ever-controversial Hawaiian, shrimp scampi, and California Club. Even though they were unusual as far as pizzas go, they were all delicious (although the shrimp scampi variety did fall apart a bit in the oven!).

Since I had some time on Saturday, I made the perfect dessert to accompany pizza…cannoli! I don’t think I could have made them any better…the shells were perfectly flaky and crispy, and my work to thoroughly drain the ricotta paid off, making the filing just right!!!

Yesterday we tried New York-style pizza from Papa John’s. I don’t know if it’s because I have a bias against New York-style pizza as someone who grew up in Chicagoland, or it’s just that Papa John’s isn’t my thing, but this was my least favorite pizza of the event.

We wrapped up our Tour di Pizza today, 314 Day, with St. Louis-style pizza from the hometown favorite, Imo’s. I’m not going to lie…this generally isn’t my favorite type of pizza (it’s a crust thing…I like something with more substance than a Saltine), but I do really like that they use provel cheese, and it’s not so bad for a special occasion!

Since today was also Pi Day (convenient that we could have pizza pies for dinner, don’t you think?), I made pies for dessert to cap off our dinner event…s’mores and chocolate hazelnut, with decorations courtesy of Bunny:

This was a really fun, silly thing to do for a few days, and it also gave me a break from making dinner for a few nights, which was really nice!

Tasty Tuesday–Chicago’s Best Foods

Of course, one of the best things about visiting any city is finding out what foods that location is famous for and trying them for yourself. Chicago is no exception, and foods that I grew up with as just food are now special treats when we travel. I’m sure people could argue all day about constitutes a Chicago food, but here are my favorites…Chicago-style pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, Rainbow cones, gyros, Eli’s cheesecake, and Italian beef:

Ryan thinks I should have added the Italian combo to my list, but I really don’t like Italian sausage that much, so the best I can do is mention it. Also, not pictured, but extremely delicious and addictive…Chicago-style popcorn. I could eat that stuff by the (cheesy Christmas) tinful!

Tasty Tuesday–Chicago Style Pizza

One of the things Ryan and I missed most about living in the Chicago area was Chicago Style Pizza. We like it so much that we had our rehearsal dinner at Giordano’s, (our favorite version of Chicago Style Pizza), the night before our wedding. So, a few years ago, I bought a Chicago Style Pizza pan, and decided that I would learn how to make it at home, so that we could have it whenever we wanted, without having to a). Go to Chicago; 2). Buy a frozen pizza, (gross!); or c). Go to Uno’s, (not a horrible option, but expensive).

I have to say, the recipe I found replicates the Giordano’s pizza fairly well, down to the pizza-sized sausage patty that goes over the cheese layer. I suppose it’s possible that it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten what a “real” Chicago Style Pizza tastes like, and the bar is pretty low on a good homemade one, but Ryan likes it, too, so it must be a decent¬†facsimile!

The Dough

  • 1 Package Active Dry Yeast
  • 3/4 cup Warm Water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup Corn Oil
  • 2 1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Olive Oil

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast with the water and sugar. Add the corn oil and blend. Add the flour and salt and mix thoroughly. If using a stand mixer with dough hook, mix for four minutes at medium speed until the dough is smooth and pliable. (If kneading by hand, knead for seven to eight minutes.) Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand for an additional two minutes. Add olive oil to a deep bowl. Place the dough ball into the bowl and turn it twice to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for two hours. Do not punch it down. Spread and push the dough ball across the bottom and up the sides of a Chicago Style Pizza pan.

The Chicago Classic

  • One Dough Ball (Pressed across the bottom and up the sides of a Chicago Style Pizza pan)
  • 1 lb. Ground Pork
  • 1 Tbsp. Fennel Seed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. Grated Romano Cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Crushed Tomatoes, Drained (from a 28 oz. can)
  • 1 tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Dried Basil
  • 12 oz. Slice Low-moisture Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2 tsp. Grated Romano Cheese

1. Mix the ground pork, fennel seed, salt, pepper, and 2 tsp. Romano cheese in a bowl and set aside.

2. Mix the crushed tomatoes, oregano, and basil in a bowl and set aside.

3. Lay the slices of mozzarella over the dough to cover.

4. Press the seasoned pork sausage into a patty that is less than 1/8 of an inch thick, (this can be done by placing the sausage between two oiled sheets of foil and rolling it out with a rolling-pin). Place the sausage patty over the cheese.

6. Spread the seasoned tomatoes over the sausage.

7. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tsp. Romano cheese over the tomatoes.

8. Bake on the middle rack of a 475 oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

9. All the pizza to rest for 3-4 minutes before cutting.

So, there it is. If you’re craving Chicago Style Pizza, but are in a place where Chicago Style Pizza is nowhere to be found, this is a fairly simple way to replicate it at home. Serving it with a Chicago “accent” is, of course, optional!