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Since South Florida is so full of people who have relocated from other parts of the country, you will invariably hear people from a region bemoaning the foods that they miss. Philadelphians miss authentic cheesesteaks, New Englanders yearn for authentic lobster rolls, and Californians crave In-N-Out burgers. However, it seems that those who moan and complain the loudest are Chicagoans.

They (and by they, I mean we, as I’m a proud son of the Windy City) complain that the only good pizza is Chicago-style pizza, and don’t get them (us) started on hot dogs.

While I’m certain everybody thinks the food from their home city is the best, there are a few Chicago favorites that are impossible to find outside of that Midwest metropolis. So, for you displaced Chicagoans, here are my secret recipes for recreating the dishes you miss the most.


Deep Dish Chicago Pizza

Chicagoans know that pizza is a knife and fork meal, not something you bend in half. One of the secrets to making a Chicago pizza is putting the cheese between the dough and the toppings. This keeps the juices from vegetables and meats from making the crust soggy. The other secret is a dark metal pan. If you don’t have one of those, a cast iron skillet will work just fine.

Pizza Dough


1 cup warm tap water 

¼ oz. (I pkg.) active dry yeast

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup semolina flour

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ cup olive oil


  1. Pour the warm water into a large mixing bowl and dissolve the yeast with a fork
  2. Allow yeast to ferment for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup of flour, all of the semolina, salt, and vegetable oil to the yeast mixture and mix well with a spoon.
  4. Continue stirring in the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Flour hands and the work surface and knead the ball of dough until it is no longer sticky.
  5. Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl, sealed with plastic wrap, for 45-60 minutes in a warm place, until it has doubled in size.

Pizza Topping


½ lb. Provolone cheese, thinly sliced

¾ lb. mozzarella cheese, grated

1 lb Italian sausage with fennel seeds (add fennel seeds if necessary)

1 can (14 ½ oz.) diced tomatoes, squeezed dry 

¼ teaspoon each basil and oregano 

4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F.
  2. Punch down dough and press it into a greased 15-inch deep dish pizza pan or cast iron skillet until it comes 2 inches up the sides and is even across the bottom.
  3. Let the dough rise 15-20 minutes while preparing filling.
  4. Remove sausage from the casing and crumble into skillet. 
  5. Cook the sausage until it is no longer pink and drain the excess fat.
  6. Sautee vegetables, such as onions or mushrooms if desired

Assemble pizza

  1. Tile the bottom of the pizza dough with the provolone cheese. 
  2. Distribute the sausage (and vegetables if desired). Note: if you prefer pepperoni, instead of the sausage, add a layer of slices atop the provolone.
  3. Top with the tomatoes and crumbled mozzarella.
  4. Sprinkle on the seasonings and Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes at 500°F, then lower the temperature to 400°F and finish baking for 20-30 minutes longer.
  6. Lift up a section of the crust from time to time with a spatula to check its color. The crust will be golden brown when done.
  7. Allow to sit for 4-5 minutes before cutting in slices. 


Italian Beef

Italian beef is the Chicago version of a French dip. People are fiercely loyal to certain stands serving this delicacy. There are also arguments about the correct way to eat/serve the sandwich. Some prefer it “wet” (submerged in the au jus), others dry. Some want cooked green bell pepper slices on top; others prefer spicy or mild giardiniera (available at most Italian specialty shops).


3-5 lb. beef roast, rubbed with olive oil to coat

1 bulb garlic, peeled (about 12-20 cloves-to taste)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs. Italian seasoning

1 Tbs. oregano

1 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp smoked mild paprika

1 Tbs. onion powder

1 tsp. salt

2 cups beef stock

crushed red pepper flakes to taste


Pre-heat oven to 225 F. 

  1. Puree garlic, olive oil, Italian seasoning, oregano, black pepper, sweet paprika, onion powder, sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes in a food processor. 
  2. Sear the roast on all sides in a Dutch oven. 
  3. Remove roast to a platter and allow to cool, about five minutes.
  4. Massage the pureed spices onto the roast. 
  5. Return roast to Dutch oven, leaving any juices in pan.
  6. Add beef stock.
  7. Cover and roast for 90-120 minutes, depending on the size of the beef. 
  8. Separate the roast and liquid jus into two containers and refrigerate overnight. 
  9. Slice the roast as thin as possible, about 1/16th of an inch (slightly thicker than shaved).
  10. Put jus into a pot, bring to a simmer.
  11. Place the thinly sliced beef into the simmering jus, turn off heat.
  12. Use tongs to remove slices of meat from the jus and place them inside a sliced section of a crusty baguette (or Italian bread).
  13. Use tongs to dip entire sandwich in jus, if desired, serve with peppers or giardiniera.


Garrett's Popcorn 

It’s not unusual to see lines of folks waiting outside any of the Garrett’s stores in Chicago’s “Loop.” The favorite purchase is what’s known as “Chicago Mix”; a combination of warm caramel corn and cheddar cheese infused kernels that offers just the right balance of salty and sweet. It’s one of Oprah’s favorite things, and is available by mail order, but it’s just not the same as enjoying it fresh and warm. The only way to make this at home is to use dehydrated cheddar cheese. If you can’t find it in a store, just raid the foil packages from a couple boxes of mac and cheese mix.


For the caramel corn

3 quarts popped popcorn 

3/4 cup brown sugar

6 Tbs. butter

3 Tbs. corn syrup

1½ tsp. sea salt

¾ tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking soda

For the Cheese Corn

3 quarts popped popcorn

4 Tbs. melted butter

¾ cup cheddar cheese powder

2 tsp. ground mustard powder

3 large, clean, paper grocery bags


For caramel corn:

  1. Pour three quarts of popcorn into each of the grocery bags.
  2. Place the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt and vanilla in a large microwave safe bowl. 
  3. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. 
  4. Stir, then microwave another 2 minutes, until boiling. 
  5. Immediately stir in the baking soda (the baking soda will cause the caramel to foam up.) Pour over the popcorn in one bag. 
  6. Fold the top of the paper bag over a couple times and shake well. 
  7. Place the bag in the microwave for 1 minute. 
  8. Shake the bag vigorously again and microwave for 30 seconds more.
  9. Open the bag and pour the caramel corn out on waxed paper. Break up clumps if needed. 
  10. If the caramel corn does not crisp up, after it cools a minute or so, put it back in the bag and microwave for another 30 seconds.

For cheese corn:

  1. Mix cheese and mustard powder until thoroughly blended. 
  2. Open the top of the second bag and shake vigorously as you slowly pour the butter over the popcorn. 
  3. Shake vigorously again, as you sprinkle the cheese/mustard mixture over the buttered popcorn. Close the bag and fold the top down and give it one last hard shake. 
  4. Place the bag in the microwave and microwave for 30-45 seconds to dry out the popcorn. 
  5. Place on a tray and allow it to cool for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Pour half the cheese corn into the third bag, keeping the remaining half in the original bag
  7. Put half of the caramel corn in each bag with cheese corn.
  8. Fold over each bag and shake to mix thoroughly.
  9. Store in an air-tight container.

Is there a regional favorite you’d like to recreate? Drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I’ll see if I can come up with a recipe for you.