Sunday, April 1, 2012

Indiana and Illinois (3rd in series)

Living in Wisconsin brings with it the apparent responsibility to dislike all thing Illinois.  But the only thing I can bring myself to dislike about my friends to the south is the Bears, and even that is a more of a joke distaste more than anything else.  Actually there are a few things about Illinois that I really like.  Chicago, the Black Hawks, and Great America to mention a few.  But, this is about food.  When I think of Illinois food, specifically Chicago, I think deep dish pizza.  Now normally I would post a recipe for deep dish, but the bottom line is I cant find or invent a recipe that compares to real thing.  So indulge me in a little culinary dissertation on Chicago.
     Chicago, much like New York offers an extraordinary variety of ethnic cuisine.  But by a twist of circumstances, more than any other town in America, Chicago is identified with it's deep dish pizza.  Now for us New York city types that remember going to the corner for a slice, Chicago deep dish is a very peculiar thing.  There was a time that the mere mention of this stuff offended my pizza senses.
     "This isn't pizza!"  I would exclaim.  "This stuff is more like a calzone on steroids, than it is a pizza!"
      I have come around to appreciate this dish, and realize that it may be different, but it is very, very good, and Chicago takes it pizza very seriously.  Pizza in Chicago, probably more than any where else is a communal experience.  If you don't eat deep dish with a group of friends, I think that you are missing a great part of what makes it special.
      Now a little history.    The man who started the special ethos of the Chicago-deep-dish pizza was a Texan named Ike Sewell, who arrived in the windy city, after the Depression, at age twenty with nineteen dollars in his pocket.  Before long, he ran into an Italian restaurateur named Ric Riccardo and the two decided to join forces and open a pizza parlor-- quite a revolutionary idea for World War II America.
     Sewell wasn't convinced that such a restaurant could succeed since this newfangled thing called pizza wasn't substantial enough to make into a meal.  That's where the toppings came in, and in 1943 Pizzeria Uno opened, featuring a deep-dish pizza that virtually overflowed with sausage, cheese, peppers, and onions.  The public was so wary at first that they had to give away small portions at the bar, but soon journalists wrote about this new phenomenon and soldiers returning from the war in Italy made Pizzeria Uno a great success.
     In 1980 Pizzeria Uno was franchised, and you may even have one near you.  But just as New Yorkers think that the only real bagels can be found in the Big Apple, Chicagoans contend that you have to go to the original Uno to truly get authentic deep-dish.  They might be right.  So, if you can't get to Chicago to have the original, look for a Pizzaria Uno near you and enjoy.

     O.K.  Confession time.  I really don't think of Indiana often, well, hardly ever.....pretty much never.  I've never spent any time there other than to drive through it to get some place else.  I'm going to have to try to fix that.  No offense Indiana, but it's just the way it has been for me.  For years my only impression of the state was driving through Gary......not good.  So as I sat trying to figure out what to write about Indiana, at dawned on me that the one random fact I know about it is that Johnny Appleseed is buried in Fort Wayne.   So, here we go.
    Although born in Boston, John Chapman became a legend in the Midwest during the first half of the nineteenth century.  A disciple of the Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, Chapman spent forty years walking barefoot, preaching the Gospel, and planting apple seeds in the wilderness of Ohio and Indiana.  He tended the young saplings on return visits, and the prolific fruits they eventually bore turn up on many regional dishes in the form of apple pie, dried apples, and apple butter.  So, for Indiana and in salute to Johnny Appleseed,  Apple Strudel from Indiana.

According to the Settlement Cookbook of 1903, a proper strudel dough must be worked "until it is as large the table and as thin as paper."...........I would rather use frozen phyllo dough.

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
3 cups thinly sliced, peeled tart apples (you can also make this with pears)
1/3 cup raisins
10 to 12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/3 cup  melted butter  + another 2 tablespoons separate
2 tablespoons finely crushed vanilla wafers
2 cups of whipped cream

For filling, in a bowl stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel.  Add apples (or pears) and raisins, then gently toss till coated.  Set aside.  Lightly grease a 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan.
     Cover a large surface with a cloth; flour the cloth.  Stack 2 sheets of phyllo on the floured cloth (do not brush butter on the dough yet!)  Arrange another stack of 2 sheets on the cloth, overlapping the stacks 2 inches.  Add 3 or 4 more stacks, forming a rectangle about 20x40 inches (stagger stacks so all seams are not down the middle).  Trim down to the 40x20 rectangle.  Brush with the 1/3 cup of butter.
     Beginning 4 inches from a short side of dough, spoon the filling in a 4 inch wide band across dough.  Using the cloth underneath as a guide, gently lift the 4 inch piece of dough and filling, jelly-roll style, into a tight roll.  If necessary, cut excess dough from ends to within 1 inch of filling. Fold ends under to seal.

     Carefully transfer strudel roll to the prepared baking pan.  Curve ends together to form an 8 inch ring.  Brush top of strudel with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with vanilla wafer.  Bake in a 350 F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or till golden brown.  Carefully remove from pan and cool.
     Serve with whipped cream.  Makes 12 - 16 serving.   Toss out the diet book, this is about 270 calories for  a 3g  serving.   Got to love it!!!

Stay hungry friends,

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