Pizza di Randinie [or "Pizz' Grandin'" in Molisani dialect]
1 1/2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups fine yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
2 to 3 cups boiling water
Boil water in a large pot on the stove burner. Add salt.
Turn down heat.
In a separate bowl mix the "coarse" cornmeal with the "fine" cornmeal.
Add the mixed cornmeal to the boiled water in the large pot on the stove burner and mix well for a few minutes on low heat (The mixture should be very thick as one will have to make a "pizza" out of it).
Remove the cooked cornmeal from the large pot and knead on a wooden board for a few minutes.
Shape into a dough-ball.
Place the dough-ball into a [9 inch] springform pan and flatten it out (The mixture should be about one inch thick). Alternatively, the dough-ball can be nicely flattened and shaped into a circle and then cooked on a cookie sheet but for this cooking technique to be successful one requires a great deal of skill (It's best to use a springform pan).
Place the springform pan in a preheated 375 degree F oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
Remove from the "pizza di grandini" from the oven and let it cool in the pan.
When it's cooled remove the "pizza di grandini" and place it on a dish.
Before serving, the "pizza di grandini" can be warmed up in the oven and made a bit crustier, or it can be served as is at room temperature.
The "pizza di grandini" can be served with Italian cold cuts, stewed vegetables or with "red sauce."
Prior to World War II "pizza di randinie" [or Pizz' Grandin' in dialect] was considered poor man's food. Unlike tomato pizza which was baked in a wood-burning communal oven "pizza di randinie" was baked at home on the hearth, so it cost a great deal less to make. "Pizza di randinie" was cooked in a special cooking utensil called a "fornicella" that had a special lid called a "cop'". Many "fornicella" pans were round and made of copper; they came with over-sized lids that were made of iron. Unlike a frying pan or a cauldron, this "fornicella" with its over-sized "cop'" not only got heat from the burning embers from the bottom of the pan, but it also got heat from the top (Apparently, a fire had to burn for two hours prior to its embers being used for baking purposes). Basically, the "fornicella" with the "cop'" was totally surrounded in hot embers, giving out a slow and consistent heat. Like other foods that were baked in this cooking utensil the results were rather uneven. Sometimes the food came out quite well, other times it got burnt. Apparently, one could gauge the social status of a family by the amount of "pizza di randinie" they ate. The more "pizza di randinie" on the table, the less well off the family was. My mother claims that her mother often made "pizza di randinie" twice a day -- for breakfast and for dinner (Not a good thing!). In fact, my mother claims she ate "pizza di randinie," corn pizza, so often as a child, that just the thought of it now turns her stomach. However, not all Italian Canadians have this attitude. Many immigrants from Molise have fond memories of "pizza di randinie". The corn pizza was served in a variety of ways. For breakfast it was served with fried green peppers, and for lunch or dinner it was served "white" style (without tomatoes) with Swiss chard or with beans. It seems polenta (boiled corn meal) was frequently served with "red sauce" but not "pizza di randinie." Even though "pizza di randinie" had less status than regular pizza and was generally looked down upon as "what poor people ate," nonetheless, many people didn't mind eating it. In fact, if is done well (Should be a bit crusty), it can be quite tasty. Nowadays, most older Italian-Canadian women cook the "pizza di randinie" in a springform pan but in the 1960s many women (including this contributor's mother) placed the round-shaped flattened corn-pizza-dough on an aluminum pan and then baked it in a moderate oven. Obviously, "pizza di randinie" will not appeal to everyone -- it has a bit of a Mexican flavor. In fact, the corn plant is not native to Italy. It was brought from Mexico to Italy around the 16th century. But then neither is the tomato plant native to Italy, that too comes from Mexico. How Italians once managed to come up with tasty dishes without the use of tomatoes, corn and peppers (also native to Mexico) beats me...... One more thing -- I believe the above recipe for pizza di randinie (with just cornmeal, salt and water, and without the use of "white" flour) is the "Poor Man's" version for this dish. According to my cousin's paternal aunt who grow up in Casacalenda in the 1930s those who were better off did add a touch of white flour and olive oil to the mix, but the poorest of poor reserved the little "white flour" they had for special occasions. Photo and notes: Mary Melfi.