As I’ve said in the past, I’m a pizza lover; I make a pie almost every day. The secret to really good pizza lies, for the most part, in the recipes for sauce and dough as well as in the quality of toppings used. As I’ve had several requests from folks who want to know how to make my dough, I’ll let you in on my version of Pizza Dough 101.
The first thing to remember when working with any yeast dough is that it needs to rest. A slow rise will give dough the opportunity to develop its flavor and texture. Dough that is stiff from refrigeration becomes pliant when left at room temperature for 10 or 15 minutes. Actually, it’s a good idea to let dough sit at room temperature for an hour or more before rolling or stretching it.
Below is a basic recipe, one that I have used dozens of times. Master this recipe before trying different flours or proportions. Once you are comfortable handling the dough you can begin to experiment.
Southern treats via Auburn Hills
When I first heard about Chuck’s on the Boulevard, I stopped in for lunch on a day when I was on a tight schedule. I waited and then impatiently left when nobody approached me. I subsequently heard that I missed out on some fine soul food and I was advised to head back. Fortunately, I took that advice. What I found was a family-run Mardi Gras-themed restaurant that puts down some serious Southern chow: soul food, barbecue and Louisiana cookin’.
The lack of service I encountered on my first visit was an aberration. I have since found the staff to be friendly and accommodating.
Chuck’s is a 150-seat restaurant with a full-service bar and big barbecue pit in the rear of the dining room. Ribs are slow-smoked over hickory until they are tender and infused with hardwood flavor. They are sauced toward the end of the cooking so they have some of that finger-licking goodness, but it isn’t burned on.
The venture started way back when Chuck and Lorraine Lizana were high school sweethearts in Amite, La., about an hour north of New Orleans. They moved to Michigan and opened a small storefront restaurant in 1983 before opening their current Auburn Hills location in 2002.
Their menu covers the spectrum of Southern cuisine done right. The Bourbon Street traditions include crawfish étouffeé, a roux-based peppery crawfish stew. (For those unfamiliar with étouffeé, the word mean smothered or braised.) Lorraine’s version is spicy, perhaps not as hot as you might find it in New Orleans, but you can always add hot sauce.
The half dozen lunch specials include Jazzy Wing Zings and fries or Southern Fried Catfish Sandwich and fries at a reasonable $5.99.
The entrées lean toward seafood with “Chuck’s World Famous Fried Catfish” at the top of the list. Grilled catfish, fried whiting, shrimp, fried chicken and fried pork chop dinners include two sides and cornbread. The sides are major items on this menu. The red beans and rice are some of the best I’ve eaten. The macaroni and cheese is sooo creamy. Loudpuppies — hushpuppies renamed by the Lizanas’ kids — as well as collard greens and candied yams are popular. The greens are loaded with pieces of well-trimmed ham, probably less fatty than the old style, but nonetheless plenty flavorful.
Chuck’s ham and sausage jambalaya is available as a side for an extra $1.50. The entrées are priced at $8.99 for the fried chicken to $14.99 for a 12-ounce New York strip steak.
There are Po’ boys served on French bread, dressed with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and dill pickles, just as they make them in New Orleans. Choices include catfish, shrimp, oysters, and, for the less adventuresome, hamburger clubs or grilled chicken breasts.
Go with the fried seafood. If you don’t like catfish, you’ve probably never tried it. It’s a sweet, moist fish, easy to debone, and it’s delicious when coated with a light, spicy breading as they do at Chuck’s.
The decor and the music are New Orleans style, lively and colorful. The restaurant attracts a friendly crowd, following the example set by Chuck and Lorraine. Stop in for a Hurricane, the drink made famous at Pat O’Brien’s in the French Quarter and improved upon here.
As for desserts, “The Big Easy” bread pudding is out of this world. I tried to coax the recipe from Lorraine, who makes it. No deal. The idea of bread pudding does not appeal to people who never ate it growing up, but trust me, this is the place to try it. It was so creamy that I was surprised to find that its recipe doesn’t include cream. Other desserts are Lorraine’s peach cobbler, Magnolia key lime pie and Aunt Ethel’s double chocolate cake, to name a few.
Other than the lunch specials, there is one menu all day. Social and corporate catering are also available. Check out the Web site, eatatchucks.com, where, if your computer sound is turned on, you can listen to Louisiana tunes and get a simple recipe for jambalaya.
Chuck’s on the Boulevard is located at 2105 South Boulevard, Auburn Hills. Call 248-335-3663.
2 cups of warm water
1 tablespoon or one envelope dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
5 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the olive oil and warm water. Combine the flour and the salt in a mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and mix until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead it for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Put it in a lightly oiled bowl, coating it so that it won’t stick to the bowl while rising. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for about two hours or until it has doubled in size.
The dough is OK to use but develops better flavor and texture if left in the fridge overnight. Divide into three or four balls and put them in plastic bags. Use within three days. The dough freezes well. It is best to defrost in the fridge.Jeff Broder is a chowhound for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org