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You know how you start the weekend off with a bang?

Pizza.

For breakfast.

No, not that cold, congealed stuff–though that has a special place in my drunken little heart, too.

Real pizza.  Hot pizza.

“It’s pizza.

For breakfast.”

Couldn’t you just see a commercial or a full page magazine ad like that?  There’s also:

“Pizza.  That was easy.”

Oh, wait.  Staples already did that.  How about:

“Pizza for breakfast?  Way radical!” with a picture of a spiky-haired kid skateboarding past, grabbing the pizza out of his mom’s hands while she wears a half-shocked, half-bemused expression.

Nah.  Too nineties.  We could do:

“Rich.  Satisfying.  Smooth.  Pizza.”

Nope.  Sounds like a pizza-flavored cigarette.  Oh, oh, I know:

“Same great taste.  Now for breakfast!”

Didn’t McDonald’s do something like that?  Like, when they tried to market something that looked like a quadruple-pounder with cheese and three buns as a great way to start the morning?

But let’s get real.  The point of this post isn’t how to create a pizza advertisement.  It’s how to make a damn fine pizza.

“For breakfast.”

Last weekend I wanted to surprise The Boy with something special on Saturday morning.

You know.  Aside from the usual something special.

Since he’s a fiend for my homemade pizza–on the stone, but of course–I figured that was the way to do it.  You know, keep the spontaneity alive.  Well, it would’ve kept the spontaneity alive, except halfway through our movie on Friday night I lunged for the remote, paused the DVD, turned to him, pressed my face right up against his, and went, “OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD, GUESS WHAT, I’M MAKING PIZZA FOR BREAKFAST TOMORROW ANDAREN’TYOUSOEXCITED?!”

I never said I could keep a secret.

I usually use Chris Bianco’s recipe for pizza crust, which is excellent, to be sure.  But seeing as how I have a sourdough starter just lounging around, I used that instead.  WHICH WAS THE GREATEST IDEA EVER.  I didn’t measure.  Didn’t weigh.  Didn’t consult any recipes.  Just went with my gut.  And my gut told me to feed and proof the sourdough starter on the counter for 8 hours, then toss in enough flour, wheat germ, and salt to make a nice, soft dough.  Then my gut instructed me to knead the dough until it was firm and elastic-y, let it rise, punch it down, and let it rise again for another half hour.  Bingo–sourdough pizza dough.  And as we all know, sourdough bread makes THE BEST toast, and therefore is perfectly suited to tangy, crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, makes you go “Mmmm” pizza.

“For breakfast.”

My gut is so smart.  And strangely specific.

Anyhow, I did all this during the afternoon on Friday.  Then I just stuck the dough in the refrigerator and prepped all the toppings so that the next morning would be effortless.  I don’t think I have to tell you how flexible pizza is, so just use whatever’s on hand, whatever appeals to you.  But in my case, I halved cherry tomatoes, snipped up a bunch of fresh sage, cooked and crumbled a few slices of applewood bacon, shredded some aged mozzarella, and painted my nails.  Oh, the nail thing was for me.  Not the pizza.  But I highly recommend it.

The next morning as I stumbled out of bed and zombied my way to the bathroom, I made a quick detour to put the oven on full blast at 500F degrees and take the dough out to rest on the counter.  About 45 minutes later, I dusted my pizza peel with cornmeal, stretched out my dough, and began piling it all on.

Mmm, piling it all on.

Ooh, this would be a good place to mention that I topped the pie with a raw egg carefully cracked on top.  I LOVE doing this.  When the pizza comes out the oven, the egg will be fully cooked with a still-runny yolk, so you can break it and spread it out all over the pizza.  Don’t give me that look, you know you want it.

Into the oven, on top of the pizza stone, it went and baked for about 8 minutes, with a brief run under the broil setting to give the cheese that…oh, you know, that golden, crusty, but still buttery and oeey-gooey quality.  When it came out, we indulged while emitting the most graphic “oohs” and “aahs,” probably causing our downstairs neighbor to think we had the other kind of Saturday morning surprise.  Nope.  Pizza.  Yum.  Of course, I had enough dough for two pies, which was one more than we could handle, so we flash froze the other one, already baked, and reheated it at 400F for dinner last night, which means it was:

Pizza.  For Breakfast.  For Dinner.

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Halle-friggin’-lujah, misfits, I just moved back to Chicago!!

A few circumstances have resulted in my move, but we won’t get into that. What you should get into, and I mean like really into, like disgusting what am I into up to my mid-calves, into, like so into that I can’t remember a time or life when I wasn’t all up in it, but not in a sexual way, okay sometimes in a sexual way, is Chicago food.

This city is home to some pretty amazing comestibles–dishes which frequently go unrecognized outside of the City of Broad Shoulders. Fear not–I shan’t leave you in the dark for long.  What follows is this Chicago native’s overly-patriotic and completely biased look at what makes our food great, and a few recommendations on where to find it.

Fuckin’ Chicago Pizza!

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It’s thick.  It’s cheesy.  It takes 45 minutes to make.  Oh, yeah–it’s a Chicago Pizza.  Best executed by places like Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East (don’t talk to us about Uno’s or Giordano’s…please), the Chicago pizza is a key slice (sorry–couldn’t resist) of the city’s identity–almost as integral as the Cubs’ never winning the World Series, or saying “da” instead of “the,” or the thick, bushy Chicago “‘stache” worn almost religiously by all males over thirty-five in certain neighborhoods, or calling carbonated soda, “pop.”  Therefore, please understand when we get a little teary-eyed about it.  Listen, New York–it’s not that I can’t respect that cracker-thin thingy you make, or your fierce defensiveness about its “superiority”…it’s just not even the same food, and thus the “Chicago vs. New York” pizza debate is nonsensical.

But, that being said…Chicago.

Try this beauty the traditional way, with crumbled Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions, and don’t forget a nice tall, yeasty beer to wash it all down.

Fuckin’ Chicago Hot Dogs!

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Yes, it’s got lots of “stuff” on it.  No, they will not let you put ketchup on it.  But hell yes, it is deliciousness TO THE EXTREME, misfits!  Wanna build your own?

Start with a poppy-seed bun, and add an all-beef frank.  Top it with mustard, pickle relish, a Kosher Dill pickle spear, sport peppers, tomato wedges, chopped onions, celery salt, and a tiny dancer.

Just kidding about the tiny dancer, mostly, but totally serious about the other parts.

If you order it with fries at a traditional joint, they will, more often than not, pack your fries on top of the dog and then wrap it all up for you.  Don’t be alarmed–the fries like that level of intimacy with the dog.  You might even say they relish it.  And so will you.  Try one at my personal favorite,  Gene and Jude’s (their dogs come a little less topped, but are no less delicious for it..and the fries, OMFG the FRIES, MISFITS, the FRIES!).

Fuckin’ Italian Beef!

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This baby is da real deal…and it causes some measure of confusion in the Northeast.  “Italian Beef?  Is that sort of like a Cheesesteak?”

No, my sweet, misguided misfits, it most certainly is NOT a Cheesesteak–for it is quite uncool to put cheese on an Italian beef (though it can happen, and when it does, we sort of just look the other way, ’cause, y’know, we’re still friendly Midwesterners and all).

Beef sliced super-thin, piled on a hearty Italian roll, with tons of au jus ladled all over it (the bun is supposed to get soggy–don’t be alarmed), topped with sweet and/or hot peppers, and rolled up tight in paper, then foil.  If someone asks you, “wet, dry, or dipped,” you should answer wet, and not be worried that something freaky is about to happen to you.

Everyone’s first time is a little messy.

Locals will recommend Al’s, Mr. Beef, Portillo’s, or Johnnie’s, but I’m ’bout to get all specific on your ass–Al’s on Taylor.  ‘Nuff said.

Fuckin’ Chicago Steak!

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Did you really think I could discuss Chicago food without paying some sort of homage to our illustrious history in the slaughter and packing of meat?  The photo above was taken at a classic Chicago steakhouse, Gibson’s.  Before you order, your waiter will bring out a platter of the best selections of the night.  As you can see, at Gibson’s it is possible to get not only a fantastic steak, but also an ungodly large lobster which probably put up a formidable fight with the kitchen staff and took off a few digits before surrendering to its delicious future.

And no culinary joyride through Chicago is complete without violence.

Fuckin’ Paczki!

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Say “ponch-keee,” not “donut.”  It does sort of resemble a jelly donut, now, doesn’t it?  And I suppose the premise is similar–paczki are pieces of fried dough that are either injected with or sliced and filled with some sort of delicious creamy or fruity filling.  BUT THEY ARE NOT DONUTS DO NOT CALL THEM JELLY DONUTS.

The inclusion of paczki on this list is a nod to Chicago’s massive Polish population, a number which tops that of almost any other city, including all cities in Poland except for Warsaw!  Therefore, every Fat Tuesday (or Paczki day, as it’s often known here), you’ll see many a pedestrian burdened by a box or ten of these delicious little fiends.  For weeks and frequently even months beforehand, Polish bakeries (and in Chicago, just about any kind of bakery) will post their paczki list just so that your Bad Mama Genny (yes, it’s all for me, all if it) can place her pre-order and be assured that paczki pleasure will be hers.  The bakery that I typically order from offers over 50 varieties of paczki.

Now, you may be thinking, “gee, how is it possible to come up with 50 different things to stuff into a donut?”

You, my friend, need to expand your mind.  Think Triple Chocolate Godiva, Pineapple Cream, Strawberry Shortcake, Mint Chocolate Chip, and the like.  Of course, there are always the old-fashioned favorites, such as Apricot, Prune, Rose Jelly, etc., for the traditionalists, but I say, why choose?  Order a few dozen!  Make friends with your neighbors! Wear them as a bra!

Two years ago, I was in line for my paczki order when someone cut in front of the lady behind me.  She was pissed, but the people behind her were even more livid.  Long story short, they tied the guy’s hands, gagged him with a cannoli paczki, and ran him up the flagpole as a warning to other would-be line-cutters.  Actually, that never happened.  I just needed you to understand just how serious we are about paczki out here.

Well, that should get my misfits started on a proper nom-fest.  What Chicago foods MUST you have every time you visit?  Chi-town natives, where do you drag your out-of-town guests?



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