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Chicago Style Corn Meal Pizza

Posted February 27th, 2014

Until recently, the words "pizza" and "Los Angeles" were not synonymous with appetizing options. But as the city's gone through a quasi food renaissance, the availability of great pizza has really blossomed, with the notable exception of Chicago style deep dish. Aside from the great Masa of Echo Park Bakery & Cafe, it's hard to get a quality deep dish, so I made my own variation, using a corn meal crust (inspired by Vicolo), Italian sausage and a basic red sauce. It definitely doesn't compare to an original Chicago pizza, but considering the weather in the Midwest this winter, I'm ok with 70° temps and getting semi-close.
 
Ingredients (Crust)
 
1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tbs sugar 
1 1/2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups corn meal
pinch of salt
 
Ingredients (Sauce)
 
2 large, white onions, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tbs fresh thyme, chopped (or 2 tbs dried)
3 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
2-3 tbs kosher salt
3-4 tbs olive oil
1 tbs sugar
fresh ground pepper, to taste
 
Ingredients (pizza)
 
2 lb uncooked Italian sausage (removed from casing)
1 large package of shredded (or sliced) mozzarella
fresh basil, crushed red peppers and/or dried oregano (optional toppings)
 
Recipe
 
1. Pour warm water and yeast into a large mixing bowl and let sit until yeast begins to bubble (about 7-10 minutes.) Add the sugar, oil, and vegetable shortening, mix thoroughly, then add flour and cornmeal. Knead the dough until it forms a solid ball, than springs back when pushed.
 
2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough sit for an hour (or more) until it doubles in size. At this time, pre-heat oven to 450°.
 
3. While dough is proofing, heat a large pot (or dutch oven) over medium high heat. Add olive oil and heat until it glistens and moves, then add onions and some salt. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften. Add the thyme, cook for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic, stirring for 30 seconds until the garlic becomes fragrant. Poor in all the cans of crushed tomato, stirring to combine all the ingredients, then add the sugar and remaining salt (to your preferred taste.) Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and cook until the sauce reduces by 1/3. When ready, remove from heat and let the sauce cool.
 
4. While sauce is cooling, heat another pan over medium heat, add some olive oil and when ready, add the italian sausage. Cook 5-7 minutes, breaking the sausage into smaller pieces. Once the sausage is rendered and partially cooked, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel lined plate.
 
5. When dough is ready, roll it out so it fits the entire size of your pan (going up and slightly over the sides, cutting off any excess.) If using cast iron, you shouldn't need to grease the bottom, but you can add some butter and/or corn meal to ensure it doesn't stick.
 
6. First add a layer of cheese, followed by cooked sausage, and red sauce, place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating once half-way through.
 
7. Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes. Slice and enjoy!
 
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