Grilled Pizza

Posted on 05/14/2010. Filed under: Baking, Dinner |

If you haven’t already guessed, I love to grill.  And here’s the weird thing, aside from using a grill pan (which doesn’t really count, sorry), I never grilled a thing in my life until the spring of 2007.  My dad did all the grilling at our house, letting steaks and burgers get crispy while b.s.-ing around with me, friends or neighbors.  But when he passed, the grilling was then my duty (hee hee, I said “duty”).  For the last few years, people have been going bananas with grilling and there’s some great reasons why: minimal clean up and healthier.  And the taste of something being grilled doesn’t hurt either.

So I decided to try grilled pizza with homemade dough and homemade sauce.  Mark Bittman and I have a love/hate relationship apparently.  The Bolognese was a let down, but his recipe for pizza dough worked and produced a tasty dough.  However, his recipe for sauce was kinda bland, and I like herbs/seasonings so I used his recipe as a base and added my own touches.

The dough was super easy and actually kinda fun to make.  In a large glass mixing bowl, I dumped a cup and a half of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt and a teaspoon of rapid-rise yeast.  I made a little well in the middle and then added the wet ingredients: 2 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin’s fine) and a cup of room-temp water.  Bittman didn’t say what temp the water needs to be at, so I guessed.  I figured too cold and it would do something bad to the dough; too hot and it would do something bad to the dough.  I don’t know much about breads and doughs, but I know you don’t f*@% around with the ingredients and temps.  Another reason why baking is so frustrating to me–dough is too damn fickle.  Anyhoodles, I stirred all that with a wooden spoon until it started getting sticky.  I kneaded it a bit in the bowl to bring it together, then sprinkled some flour on my clean counter and kneaded the dough for about ten minutes (that was the fun part).  I put the dough in another clean glass bowl, covered with plastic and set it on my table to rest & rise for an hour.

While the dough was hanging out, I began the sauce.  Bittman’s recipe is 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic (lightly smashed), a 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes (which I actually DID find at Kroger, kinda hidden behind a display and off to the side, but dammit they’re there!), S&P to taste.  No herbs?  WTF, Mark Bittman?  Yes I can see how this is a great basic sauce but to me, there’s no flavor besides a little bit of garlic and tomato.  So I added my spin.  I crushed four cloves of garlic in my press (which I really don’t use much but should more often), and sauteed a bit in the olive oil.  Then I added the drained can of tomatoes, salt & pepper.  And then I went to town.  I love a garlicky sauce, so I added a little garlic powder as well.  Then I eyeballed dried Italian Seasoning, dried Basil & dried Oregano.  It worked.  It was awesome, and Matt and Mom loved it.  So take that, Mark Bittman.  You can have your bland-ass sauce whereas mine is DELICIOUS.

Homemade sauce on the back burner, garlicky spinach in front.

Mom and Matt wanted a red sauce pizza with similar ingredients, I wanted to try a white pizza for myself.  The dough was definitely large enough for two pizzas.  For my white, I sauteed spinach with garlic and olive oil & added sliced fresh mushrooms.  Matt wanted pepperoni, green peppers & onions.  Mom wanted pepperoni, mushrooms & onions.  When Matt arrived, he and I shaped our doughs.  He made his a little thin, I left mine a little thick.  I preheated the grill and I assembled toppings by the grill.  I knew this was how it was going to go down: brush the side touching the grill first with olive oil, lay dough on grill, let bake a bit, flip dough, quickly add topppings and let pizza finish off.  Problem is I forgot to take the stupid top shelf that I never use out of the grill before heating.  So poor Matt was burning his hands laying down dough and flipping dough.  And for that I’m sorry.  His future children will ask how daddy got weird burn marks on his hands and he can tell them about the dangers of grilling pizza and how evil Shannon made him burn his hands.

Matt gets his dough down on the grill and he stretched it out a wee too thin, but we made it work.  Flipped the dough, added toppings, let it finish off.  Getting the pizza off the grill is a hell of a task without a pizza peel.  I held the cutting board while Spatula Master Matt slid the pie onto the board.  And here’s where my grill sucks.  It’s a two-burner gas grill that is at least five years old.  It’s a hand-me-down off brand my Dad bought several years ago and re-built it at least twice prior to his passing, and again, that was three years ago.  My point is, the outer parts of the grill are HOT (even on low flame), the middle is cool.  Burned crispy pizza edges, kinda undercooked in the middle.  Still edible though.

Then came my pizza’s turn.  Laid the thicker dough down and Matt commented then that my dough may actually work a bit better than his (which turned into crispy, burned dough that couldn’t hold the toppings well).  We flipped the dough, and I topped my white with olive oil, spinach, mozzarella and mushrooms.  Matt helped me slide the pie off the grill and we cut the pies and ate.  For some reason, Matt and I both ended up shaping both pies into squares.  I have no idea why, it just turned out that way. 

The pizza was really freaking good.  The dough was cripsy yet chewy (mine was anyway), the sauce I made was SO good.  Toppings were decent, nothing beats fresh veggies* or garlicky spinach.  Since making the pizzas, I read a great tip somewhere (I think it was June’s Rachel Ray ) where someone said to take a large terra cotta plant saucer, pre-heat it in a 400-degree oven, then put it on a grill inverted, spray the inverted saucer (bottom side up) with water and use it as a pizza stone on your grill.  I think it’s a great idea worth trying.  Cheap too. 

But now that I know how easy it is to make dough, and I have a package of Hormel pepperoni left, I might try making pepperoni rolls soon with the tomato sauce for dipping.  With tons of cheese.  Yeah, man. 

This coming week is Matt’s turn and I have no idea what’s in store.  He tells me it’s from one of his mom’s older cookbooks.  I’ve seen one of these cookbooks and it scared me.  It was a weird one from the 70’s with really odd combinations.  I can’t remember details (I’ve blocked them), but it was enough.  We’ll see…

Bon appetit, y’all!

The finished, half-eaten products. Matt & Mom's on the left, mine on the right.

 

*The thing about fresh vs. pre-cooked veggies on a pizza is this: when I made pizza for a living at Whole Foods, they insisted on pre-cooking all the veggies.  Spinach, I can understand, because raw spinach on a pizza in a 550 degree oven and it just dries out and burns, it doesn’t wilt nicely.  But by pre-cooking peppers, onions & mushrooms can kinda take the taste out of the veg, but they also lose texture.  By the time you’re eating the pizza, the veggies will have cooked twice.  And it saves time and clean up by just topping pizza with raw vegetables.  Obviously cook vegetables that NEED to be cooked to be eaten (potatoes, for example, but who puts potatoes on pizza?  anyone?).

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