When I moved to Chicago two years ago, I didn’t realize how much of my monthly budget would need to be devoted to deep dish pizza. There’s Lou’s, Pequods, Giordanos, The Art of Pizza... the list goes on nearly as long as the list of teams who have beat the Bears since I've been here. To be a true Chicagoan, you need to try them all to decide which camp you’re in. Personally, I pick Pequod’s every time. That crust! Mamma mia.
But in every foodie’s life, there comes a time when you have to face an important question: should you cook it, or should you book it (a reservation, that is)? And if the weather’s too cold to grab a pie at your favorite joint or the budget’s too tight to hail a delivery van in that desperate hour, making a deep dish pizza is entirely up to you.
A Deep Dish: A picture perfect pizza steams, fresh out of the oven and ready to enjoy
Luckily, you don’t need to puzzle through recipes and videos of kneading techniques alone because The Chopping Block is teaching classes that offer everything you need to know about making authentic, Chicago deep dish in your own kitchen (and a salad, because, you know, health). Taught by pizza geniuses, this class (which will only set you back the equivalent of two large pies), promises an optimal return on investment: the skills to make infinite pizzas and become everyone’s best friend.
Devoured: Cheese oozes as the group digs in to this pie
When it comes to deep dish, it turns out you have a new favorite place: your own kitchen. After sitting in on Sunday’s session of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza and Calzones, I’m pretty convinced there’s not a Chicagoan around who couldn’t cook it and be satisfied (and $40 better off). Participants ranged in age and skill level – from those who have attempted to make their own pies at home and met with calamity, to those who have never even considered trying to beat Mr. Malnati at his own game. What started off as a room of really, really good smelling chaos was whipped into shape by Chef Tara Arnaud and her assistants, and by the end of the evening, everyone was on the same page: these pizzas beat anything they’d ever had out.
Tara, Our Fearless Leader: Turning panic into pizza, Tara helps everyone learn how to out-bake their favorite pizza joint.
And even though my devotion to Pequod’s borders on religious, I had to agree. I know; I’m still waiting for the lightning to smite me down for my heresy.
But I’m hooked!
After doing a side-by-side comparison of the recipe for pizza that was cooked and eating pizza that was booked, there was no contest. Homemade pizza is made up of everything that makes food good: a lighter but crunchier dough, vegetables that are fresher and more flavorful, and melty varieties of cheese that will make your taste buds sing your praises.
Best of all, making this pizza isn’t hard work – it’s free fun. Tara split the process into three steps: making the dough, prepping the ingredients, then assembling and baking the pizza.
Making the Crust: The secret to perfect homemade deep dish? A solid crust foundation
I couldn’t help but imagine how fun it would be to have the gang over for a night of Game of Thrones, wine, and making our own pizzas (or dare I say, calzones) in between the epic battles and betrayals. And let’s be honest. You can’t BYO Jon Snow out to pizza in Chicago.
At the end of the day, here’s the deal or, in other words, how much money you’re actually saving. When you book it, you’re paying for the experience, and you’re paying a lot more than it cost to make that pizza. When you cook it, you’re paying for a class (which, by the way, gets you more pizza than you could possibly eat as well as BYOB and valuable life skills) and the fresh, healthy ingredients you’ll use to make your pies.
Seems like a choice so easy it hits you in the eye like a big pizza pie. Now excuse me while I go shovel a homemade pizza into my piehole and plan a night of cheesy fun with my pizza pals.
Need an out of the box thin crust recipe? Check it out here. Don't miss these upcoming pizza-making classes at The Chopping Block:
- Sunday, February 4 5:30pm Lincoln Square (just 2 spots left!)
- Monday, February 19 7pm Lincoln Square
- Thursday, February 27 6pm Merchandise Mart