Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Grill a Pizza

We've been in Wilmore for almost two years now, and we've been blessed to have been surrounded by some absolutely fantastic people. To maximize that, we instituted a "Sunday Night is For Friends" policy whenever it's warm enough to be in the backyard. It's strictly a backyard gig, because our tiny cinder-block duplex gets pretty cramped when we try having fifteen people around the dinner table.

For a while we tried doing burgers and dogs, which is incredibly tasty but hard on the budget. Midway through last summer, we discovered the joy of grilled pizza. The greatest thing about grilled pizza is that you can put just about anything on a crust and call it a pizza. Our friends also bring whatever they happen to have on hand, and we have a fantastic dinner without anybody having to go shopping.

I made four pizzas tonight, and every piece was eaten. It took the first two to remember all of the tricks, but by the third one the system was rocking and the pizza was delicious. So I'm writing it down here, partly because I promised Kara I would and partly because otherwise I'll forget it. If I was a real foodie writer, I'd have taken awesome pictures of the process. But between the four-foot rat snake that came to visit Jenna while she was sitting in the grass and the bee that stung my the sole of Judi's foot, I was a little distracted with getting the food on.

Now, to the cooking!

First off, get your dough going. You'll want to do this about an hour before starting the grill. We use our standard flatbread recipe:
- 1 cup warm (not hot) water
- 2 teaspoons of yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar

Let sit for 10 minutes (to proof the yeast), then add and mix:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon oregano
The spices are negotiable; we use a slightly different mix when making flatbread. This recipe makes two pizza crusts; the double recipe (4 crusts) was about right for eight adults and seven kids. After mixing, you'll want to leave the dough alone for an hour to rise (it should double in size). This will give you plenty of time to prep your ingredients. You'll be making the pizzas on a hot grill, so having ingredients prepped and ready to go is a big deal.

Once your ingredients are ready and your dough has doubled in size, prep the grill. Put your pizza stone right on the grill. We have two stones we bought at Trader Joe's a decade ago, but I'm told quarry stone works just as well. Turn on all the burners and close the lid; you'll want it nice and hot. A wood-fired pizza oven cooks at roughly 500 degrees, and that's about how hot my gas grill is with all burners on and the lid closed.

Separate your big batch of dough into two (or four, in my case) pieces. You'll want another cup of all-purpose flour handy; the dough will likely be sticky and wet. A drier dough is easier to work with, so don't be afraid to add plenty more flour as you roll it out. Once it's rolled, you've got to transfer it to a hot pizza stone in the grill. I've had the most success with this method, but whatever works for you. I don't recommend adding the cold pizza stone into the oven, because: (1) the cold stone will absorb all the heat and cook the pizza more slowly, and (2) you don't want to take a hot pizza stone out of the grill. Trust me. Throw some cornmeal on the hot stone, transfer your dough, let it cook for 3-5 minutes, then flip it with a grill spatula and immediately start building your pizza on the surface that had been against the stone.

Your pizza can be whatever you want. The first two (you know, for kids) were standard pizza sauce/pepperoni/cheese, but the last two were a lot nicer.
1. Cover the dough with olive oil, black pepper, and diced garlic.
2. Add your meat(s). On the first pizza, it was shredded leftovers from crockpotted whole chicken. On the second pizza, it was half chicken, half black forest ham.
3. Add your veggies. On the first pizza, it was sliced onions and leftover chopped spinach. On the second, it was sliced onions and jalapenos.
4. Add your cheese. We used some leftover colby, but mostly mozzarella.
5. Sprinkle a little oregano on top (I forgot this tonight but I didn't miss it much).
And that's pretty much it. A cheap, clean-out-the-fridge meal that you can make in the back while watching your children run scream and chase each other around the yard. It's no more work to cook for 15 than to cook for 2, so why not hang out with friends while you cook and eat?

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