I did not discover the joy of the calzone until I was older in life. It was never offered to me in my youth. Maybe it wasn’t popular back then. I’ve mentioned before that I come from the pizza capitol of North America (New Haven) and maybe the calzone was looked upon like the black sheep of the pizza family in those parts. And maybe, perhaps more likely, my family never made the calzone an option. My mom is not the most daring of food adventurers and she tended to influence our dining decisions, so I’m sure the calzone was quickly removed from the menu of choices for us. But the calzone would have been perfect for me. I was the kid that didn’t like the pizza sauce and really just liked the crust. The calzone would have made me interested.
If you don’t know, a calzone is a pizza in which the dough is folded over to create a pocket of baked inside goodness. You can pick them up like a sandwich or eat them with fork and knife. They are usually filled with the usual pizza restaurant specialties like pepperoni, meatball, sausage, etc. I started really liking calzones when we lived in Exeter, NH and we would order from a pizza restaurant run by a Greek family right on the main strip called New England Pizza. My go-to order was the steak and cheese calzone and it was always the perfect hot meal for a lazy night at home and always the take out I would reach for if Lola was away. It was the deliciousness of a steak sandwich with melty cheese all wrapped up inside this pizza crust casing. One of my all time faves.
Today, I decided to make my own calzone. Not sure why, but I thought it would be a fun challenge. I think I was inspired by some homemade calzones that we were treated to a few years ago from the Chase family, some very close friends of the Mellow family. When life around here was hard, the Chases would sometimes bring over these wonderful creations of homemade yumminess. They were so good. They’d be wrapped up in aluminum foil and you’d heat them up in the oven so they would come out hot and gooey, but the crust was nice and crisp. I’m not sure what their secret is, but they sure know how to make a calzone of epic greatness. That was my inspiration.
For my creation, I went simple and picked up some Pillsbury pizza dough (the kind that pops out of the container when you break it open with a spoon). I decided to make two kinds: Steak and Cheese (to recreate my favorite) and BBQ Chicken (which was a Chase family flavor of note). I cooked up the steak in a pan and then grilled the chicken marinated in BBQ sauce on our grill. Meanwhile I rolled out the dough into two square pieces. When the meats were ready, I chopped them up and plopped each of them onto their own piece of dough. For the steak and cheese, I just added some American cheese on top, while for the chicken, I mixed in some more BBQ sauce and topped with cheddar cheese. I then folded the dough over for each and sealed it shut with a fork, cutting in a few slits at the top so they could breathe. I then brushed both with garlic butter to add a little more flavor.
They took about twenty minutes in the oven and they came out nice and brown on the outside. Cheese was oozing out of both which is always a good sign. I cut them in half and they made a delightful sounding crunch as I cut through the crust – just what I was looking for. Inside was hot and steamy. I served them up giving a half to each of us. The steak and cheese wasn’t exactly the New England Pizza steak and cheese, but it was pretty good. Probably could have used a touch more cheese, but still delicious. The dough was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside and the steak and cheese melted right into each bite. I ate it with my hands like a sandwich. The BBQ Chicken one was good too, although a little messier than the steak and cheese. Same great crust. The chicken was nice and moist too and the BBQ sauce flavor was in every bite. The cheese flavor somehow got lost, so maybe I needed more cheese in that too, but it was still good and filling. I would call it a success.
No, I didn’t come close to recreating the yumminess that I was inspired by, but it was still good. I’m glad calzones are getting their own holiday. Their popularity has been growing for years and it’s about time they start getting some top billing. They deserve to be celebrated and shared.
Next Up: National Deviled Eggs Day