Chicago is the hog butcher to the world, the second-to-none city of broad shoulders and bigger appetites. Chicago doesn’t do small and dainty. (See: un-foldable deep-dish pizza so thick and packed with cheese and sausage it should come with a warning label from the surgeon general. Also: hot dogs with a whole damn salad piled on top.) Chicago takes its food seriously without taking itself too seriously, starting with breakfast. I’m a fifth-generation Chicagoan, cook, and eater, and I was raised to believe in the deep joy that comes from feeding and being fed—even when it isn’t gorgeous enough to Instagram. Especially when it isn’t gorgeous. Serve me spectacularly messy food on big plates with a big heart and big portions.
But Chicago is also internationally renowned for super-fancy restaurants like Alinea, Grace, EL Ideas, and 42 Grams, with plates that are artful and meticulous. We cheer on those tweezer-wielding food art geniuses with the same passion that we use for our frequently heartbreaking sports teams. Chicago also has some of the most mind-blowing super-casual dining anywhere. You just have to dig into a steaming plate of succulent carnitas at Don Pedro, take a bite of the Tiger Cry at Opart, dig into the house made loukaniko sausage at Mythos, or experience the sublime nopales at Mas Alla Del Sol, and you will break out your own personal Bib Gourmand list and start handing out stars.
So when Extra Crispy asked me for recipes for Chicago-fied breakfast, I thought I’d fully embrace the dishes that you think we’re famous for. Because it is both possible and wonderful to dig into classic deep-dish pizza or Chicago hot dogs first thing in the morning, and in the true spirit of the city, you should do so with neither regret nor apology.
These are not grab-and-go or recipes to fuel you for an energetic day. I want you to eat something yummy, then take a little nap before thinking about the next glorious thing you’re going to eat. You want nutrition? Grab a yogurt sprinkled with chia and head for spin class. When you’re ready to embrace your dark hedonistic desire for deeply sensual culinary pleasures, Chicago and I are ready to welcome you home.
Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza Baked Eggs
This play on the classic Chicago Deep Dish Pizza honors the best of that indulgence, and lightens it up just enough to make breakfast satisfying, but not coma-inducing. The classic butter cornmeal crust is here, just a lot thinner. Cheese and sausage to be sure, but in rational amounts. Plus an egg, because it’s breakfast, after all. You can alter the fillings to your personal tastes.
- Yields: Serves six
For the crust:
For the filling:
For the garnishes:
Make the crust. Mix the buttermilk or sour cream into the water and set aside. Blend dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and with a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut the butter into the flour mix until the butter pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle ¾ of the water mixture over the flour butter mixture and blend with a fork to distribute. Check to see if the dough holds together and is not sticky. If it doesn’t hold together, add more of the water mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you have a malleable dough. Press the dough into a disc, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours to overnight. Note: Since this is usually a breakfast or brunch item, I make the dough the night before, rest it, then put it into the muffin tin and cover the tin with plastic wrap so that I can wake up and just fill and go in the morning.
Prepare the tomatoes. Mix the diced tomatoes with the salt and seasoning and put into a colander over a bowl for at least 30 to 60 minutes to drain, stirring occasionally.
Bake the dough. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the chilled disc of dough into 6 even pieces, and roll into balls. Flour your rolling surface and rolling pin with flour, and dust dough balls with flour. Roll each ball into approximately a 6-inch disc, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 6-cup jumbo muffin tin, preferably nonstick, line each cup with the dough, gently pressing well into the corners, and trimming the tops as necessary. Chill muffin tin for at least 10 minutes before adding fillings.
Fill the cups. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of cornmeal into the bottom of each muffin cup. Top with 1/6 of the shredded cheese, 1/6 of the cooled crumbled sausage, and 1/6 of the tomatoes. Press down firmly. The filling should just come to the top of the muffin cup, but not over.
Bake the cups. Bake cups for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is light golden and crisp, and has pulled slightly away from the sides of the muffin cups. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
Add the eggs. Gently remove the cups from the muffin tin with a butter knife or small offset spatula and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Increase oven heat to 400°F. Break each egg carefully into a slotted spoon over a small bowl, to drain off the watery excess liquid around the white, then use the spoon to gently place each egg on top of the cups. When all cups have eggs, slide the tray carefully back into the oven, and cook 12 to 17 minutes more, watching carefully until the eggs reach your desired doneness, most people prefer sunny side up, with cooked whites but a warm, runny yolk, but if you want it hard-cooked, have at it.
Add the garnishes. When the eggs are cooked to your liking, remove from oven and drizzle ½ teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil over the egg. Serve with shakers of dried Italian herbs, grated Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes for your guests to garnish to their preference.
Dragged Through the Garden Hot Dog Hash
Chicago is serious about hot dogs. There are rules. Vienna Beef, minimum 6 to the pound natural casing. Poppy-seed bun. The Seven Samurai of toppings: tomatoes, onion, neon green pickle relish, dill pickle spear, yellow mustard, sport peppers, celery salt. It’s a full meal: protein, starch, and vegetables in a quick to eat single package. Particularly good with crispy fries, crinkle cuts preferred. It is not required that you eat your Chicago Dogs with all of these, as long as anyone over the age of ten promises to eschew ketchup.
The great thing about a classic Chicago Dog is that it is so balanced. Deep, beefy umami from the dog itself, brightness from the mustard, salt from the pickle, acid from the tomato, crunch from the onion, sweetness from the relish, heat from the peppers—it hits all of your mouth at once. This breakfast twist breaks the dog down into its component parts to reimagine it. I refuse to use the word "deconstructed" on principle.
- Yields: Serves four
For the hash:
For the eggs:
For the garnish:
Start the garnish. Mix garnish ingredients together and set aside.
Make the hash. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add hot dogs, cooking until heated through, and mix well. Cook until hot dogs begin to brown, then stir in tomato and sport pepper, mix them through, and cook until the added moisture from the tomatoes and peppers has been fully absorbed. Stir in the chopped fries and press the mixture into the bottom of the skillet in an even layer. Cook until the underside begins to brown and crisp, then, using a spatula, flip over the mix in sections, trying to get as much of the crispy parts on the top, and press down again. Repeat until the mixture has a good balance of crisp and soft. Keep warm over low heat while you make the eggs.
Prepare the buns. Mix the mustard and butter together until smooth, then spread ½ tablespoon of the mixture on the inside of each bun half, using 1 tablespoon total per bun. Place the buns on a tray and toast, either in a 400°F degree oven or in batches in your toaster oven, until lightly browned.
Make the eggs and load the buns. Scramble eggs in butter to your personal taste. Divide scrambled eggs onto the 4 buns, and sprinkle eggs with celery salt. Add the hash to the plates and garnish with a small amount of the relish/pickle mixture.
Stacey Ballis is a Chicago-based author and recipe developer.