A couple years ago we ate at Old Chicago which is a chain restaurant here in the Kansas City area, maybe you have one too.  They are best known for their pizza and calzones which are huge and taste fantastic.  Josh had this “Texican Calzone” that he just raved about and wanted to get again.  Next time we were there the menu had changed and it was no longer available.  He never forgot that calzone and so I did some research, found an old menu with the description and went about trying to break it down so that I could make it for him.  I think I hit the jackpot because he was all smiles when these came out of the oven.  Just wait until you slice into the inside, you’ll see what I mean.

Okay, take a look at my new Kitchenaid Mixer that I won!  I repeat, I won this beautiful mixer from Pioneer Woman’s blog in the black Friday giveaway!  Can you believe it?  I’m still pinching myself.  So this is my first task using the mixer, making calzone dough.  I’ve never in my life made bread other than kneading by hand so I was curious as to what difference it would make in the dough.  There’s no way I could ever knead dough by hand to get the elasticity that this machine made in just mere minutes.  My small arthritic hands thank you Pioneer Woman!  I found a recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay for pizza dough that sounded good for these calzones so I gave it a try.  Without showing every step, it entailed blending the flour, sugar, dry yeast, and kosher salt in the mixer.

While the mixer is running add the warm water and olive oil  and continue beating until the dough forms into a ball.  Within minutes the dough was formed and I was able to make a knead it into a ball, place it into a large greased bowl and cover in a warm place to double in bulk.

While the dough is rising, time to make the seasoned ground beef.  Start with 1 1/2 pounds ground beef and brown in a pan drizzled with olive oil over medium high heat.

I checked the ingredients on the can of Rotel and found no onion or garlic listed so I added 1/2 diced red onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic plus 2 teaspoons black chili.  I got the black chili from Joe’s brother who sent me a care package of spices from Turkey where he was working for a time.  I looked it up on the web and found that this unique red/black pepper flake is made from purple peppers from Urfa, Turkey.  It is also known as the world’s only black chili pepper. It has a distinct earthy flavor and smoky aroma.  I think that the Aleppo pepper that I get from “Penzey’s” is the closest I could think of to describe it.  Incidentally, the Aleppo pepper also comes from Turkey.

Once the meat has browned, add the onion and garlic and give it a stir.

Sprinkle in 2 teaspoons of the black chili.

And finally the whole can of Rotel.

Simmer over medium heat until the juices cook down and absorb into the meat.

Once it’s cooked down, turn off the heat and let it cool.  We want it to cool before we layer it onto the calzone dough.

The calzone also has an Espinaca cheese dip which is famous around here in the KC area.  A local Mexican restaurant chain here in KC called “Jose Peppers” has the best Espinaca dip anywhere, and I’ve been tweaking recipes for years trying to copycat their dip and with the new Velveeta Queso Blanco, I think I’ve found the perfect cheese to do just that.

I chopped the other half of the red onion, drizzled it with olive oil and sauteed it in a non-stick pan over medium heat.

I used 8 ounces of the Velveeta Queso Blanco cheese and then cut it into cubes.

Drop your cubed cheese into the pan with the onions.  Make sure to stir while the cheese melts.

When it started melting and getting thick I added 2 tablespoons of half and half.

I chopped 1/4 cup of pickled jalapeno slices and slid into the cheese sauce.

I added 1 cup of packed chopped spinach and 1/3 cup of diced tomato plus additional 2 tablespoons of half and half.  Stir it all together so that it looks like this.  Turn off the heat and let dip cool while we get back to the dough.

The dough has doubled in bulk.  Punch it down and form into a large round dough ball.

Using a large knife, cut dough into 8 equal pieces.

Form the cut dough pieces into round balls.

Lightly flour your surface for rolling out the dough.  Start by flattening out the balls into small discs.

And continue rolling until the dough is a thin 8 inch round disc.

I let them rest on my counter until time to fill them.

I lined 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and then started filling my calzones.  I started with the seasoned ground beef, generously spooning the meat mixture on top of the dough.  Note* Old Chicago listed black beans on their Texican calzone which I omitted.  If that sound appealing to you, now would be the time to add them.

Next comes the Espinaca cheese.  Be generous, this dip really compliments the meat.

Some pickled jalapeno slices over top, unless your name is Cameron (I’ll explain later).

I normally grate my own cheese, but when I was at the grocery store I saw this and had to try it.

Place a little of that Mexican Cheese over the top.  You can never have enough cheese.

Cameron doesn’t like anything pickled, (strange kid) so I sliced some black olives for him in place of the pickled jalapenos.

Fold the dough over the meat mixture to form your calzone.  Press the dough together with your fingers.

Pinch it together around the edges so that none of the filling leaks out.

Using a sharp knife, make 3 slits across the top to release steam.

I beat an egg and brushed the egg wash over the calzones.

They are stuffed, folded and egg washed.  Time to go into a 425 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes.

Oh, boy, don’t they look good.

Serve with a side of salsa and sour cream.

I’d stack my Tex Mex Calzone against Old Chicago’s anyday.

Tex Mex Calzones

Seasoned Ground Beef
Pickled Jalapenos
Espinaca Cheese
Shredded Mexican Cheese Blend
Calzone Dough
1 Egg (to be used as an egg wash)
Serve with Salsa and Sour Cream

Start the calzone dough.  While the dough is rising start making the seasoned ground beef and espinaca cheese dip.  Let cool.  When the dough has doubled in bulk, roll out into 8 inch discs to be used as your calzone dough.  Place the discs on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place about 2/3 – 3/4 cup of the seasoned ground beef onto the dough.  Spoon a generous amount of espinaca cheese over meat mixture.  Place pickled jalapeno slices across the top and sprinkle some shredded Mexican cheese to top it off.  Fold the dough over the mixture and press together with your fingers.  Pinch the edges together and fold upwards until the calzones are sealed.  Make 3 slits across the top of the calzone to release steam.  Beat an egg and brush the egg wash over each calzone.  Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until dough is crisp and browned.  Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Seasoned Ground Beef

1 1/2 pounds Ground Beef
1/2 Red Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced or grated on a microplane hand grater
2 teaspoons Black Chili or substitute Aleppo Pepper which can be ordered from Penzey’s
1 (10 oz) can Rotel

Drizzle olive oil in a large stainless steel pan and brown the ground beef over medium high heat.  Add the red onion and minced garlic and stir.  Stir in the black chili and can of Rotel.  Turn the heat down and simmer until the meat has absorbed the flavors and juice has evaporated.  Turn off heat and let cool.

Espinaca Cheese Dip

8 ounces Velveeta Queso Blanco Cheese, cubed
1/2 Red Onion, diced
1/3 Cup Tomato, diced
1/4 cup Pickled Jalapeno Slices, diced
1 packed cup Spinach, chopped
1/4 cup Half and Half, divided

Drizzle olive oil in a medium non-stick saucepan and add diced red onion.  Saute over medium heat until onion becomes soft and translucent.  Add diced Velveeta cheese cubes making sure to stir as the cheese melts.  When cheese become thick and stiff, add 2 tablespoons half and half.  Stir the contents and add the diced pickled jalapenos.  Stir in the remaining half and half, chopped spinach and diced tomato.  Turn off the heat and let cool.

Calzone Dough, courtesy of Bobby Flay

Note* If you want to make a dough by hand instead of using a stand mixer you might want to try my Flatbread recipe for step by step instructions.

3 1/2 cups All Purpose or Bread Flour, plus more for rolling out dough
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 envelope Dry Yeast
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 1/2 cups Warm Water (110 degrees F)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil, plus 2 teaspoons

Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine.  While the mixer is running, add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat until the dough forms into a ball.  If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together in a solid ball.  If the dough is too dry, add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time.  Lightly flour a bowl and knead the dough to form a ball.  Place in a greased bowl and cover on top of the stove or in a warm place for up to an hour or until the dough doubles in bulk.

Turn the dough out  onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a round ball.  Lightly flour a smooth surface and roll each ball out into thin 8 inch discs.   Set aside to rest.