Barbecue as Pizza Oven

17 Sep

Now that's what I call a pizza, not those things that come in a box!

That’s right, you read it correctly. We got sick and tired of crappy pizza in our neighborhood (thanks, Gina’s, for changing your menu for the worse), and kept seeing some great grilled pizzas in my food magazines. I figured we’d give it a go—what could go wrong?

Exactly, said The Husband, and refused to try it when friends were over and wanted to do a test run. No problem! Strangely enough, the perfect opportunity came on a Saturday when we thought we had nothing in the fridge to rustle up. The Husband lamented that we had just been near Trader Joe’s and could have picked up some pre-made dough, but I scoffed. I’ve got yeast and flour and I’ll make fresh dough myself, no problems. Even though I always freak out that my dough won’t rise and everything will be ruined, it rarely happens.

We also had some sofrito from Troy’s recipe hiding in the freezer, some prosciutto, some mushrooms, some chevre goat’s cheese, red onion, arugula and fresh heirloom tomatoes. Now the sofrito I had slaved over a few weekends before, and I have to let you know that it is a labor of love. But when Troy tells you to do something one way, you do it that way. This is the man that said, the last time we were at their house for yet another amazing dinner, said “Oh, I didn’t have time to make the gnocchi” as he rolls out some freshly made pasta. What the wha? How many of YOUR friends make pasta from scratch? Anybody? No? That’s what I thought.

This guy cooks an amazing four-course meal for six while whipping up some braised lamb shanks for later in the week. Plus, he’s one test away from being a Master Sommelier. When they call to see if you’re free for dinner, you make yourself free. I don’t care what’s happening—tell your kid you’ll be there for his next graduation. It’s that good.

So, the sauce was halfway made, and I only added more garlic, some chopped onions and this wonderful Greek oregano still on the stem I’d found on our last trip to Santa Barbara, I threw that dough together without the aid of the Kitchen Aid, and off we went. The Husband’s grilling skills were up to the task and we had beautiful crust, deliciously baked toppings, and we never need to order out again.

Of course, please go crazy and add your favorite pizza toppings. I’m just letting you know how we roll.

PIZZA DOUGH

Definitely make your own dough; it does make a difference!

It seemed to make about three pizzas, based on the size of our grill, about a medium.

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 pkg active dry yeast (2.25 tsp)
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup whole-wheat flour*
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. yellow cornmeal

Stir water, yeast and honey in a bowl, let stand for five minutes or so, til it gets all foamy. Put flours into a large bowl; make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture.

You can use the Kitchen Aid for this with a dough hook, but I figured it was going to take me 15 minutes to get the bloody thing out from my backyard kitchen cabinet, so I thought I’d just knead by hand. And set the timer, let me tell you, because two minutes feels like 10, and you’ll want to stop before it’s time. You need the full 10 minutes, no cheating. But if you use a Kitchen Aid, it will probably only take about two minutes for the dough to be done.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and put in a warm place. I like to use the oven, since mine has pilot lights that keep it pretty warm all the time. Alternatively, you can heat the oven for a few minutes, turn it off and pop it in there to rise, until doubled in size, about one hour.

Punch down and knead again. Cut into sections and roll into an approximate circle shape. It can look Dali-esque, it’s fine. You want it to look homemade, right?

Use the cornmeal to line your baking sheet or tray to take over to the grill. This will prevent it from sticking to the tray so you don’t cry when you pull it off at the appropriate time just to rip a big hole in your dough.

*The original recipe called for whole-wheat pastry flour, which I didn’t use but will probably try next time.

Who needs a wood-fired oven for pizza? A barbecue will do nicely, thank you.

GRILLING

Sliced prosciutto
Sliced mushrooms
Thinly sliced red onion
Thinly sliced tomatoes
Goat cheese (chevre)
Tomato sauce
Fresh arugula

Heat the ‘cue to about 450 degrees F. If you don’t have a temperature gauge on your grill, use an oven thermometer. Oil that puppy up nice and good (but please don’t use a spray can of oil while the grill is on. I don’t want to be responsible for your demise!)

Throw the dough right on the grill and shut the lid. Let it cook for about 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip it over with a large spatula.

This part is crucial! You need all of your toppings, including sauce, at the ready. As soon as you flip it, start adding your toppings as quick as you can. It’s not easy with the heat coming off the grill, but persist. You can turn the grill down a little while you do this.

Shut the lid again as soon as you’ve finished adding the toppings. It doesn’t have to look pretty! If you’re following the ingredients above, add everything but the arugula. That’s what you throw on when it comes out of the barbeque and you’re ready to serve.

Try to keep the lid shut for about 5 minutes so the toppings cook. Check on it, and check underneath the crust; you don’t want it to burn! Slide that baby on to a tray, cover with handfuls of arugula and eat as soon as possible.

The sofrito cooking.

SOFRITO

10 tomatoes (or more, if you’ve got ’em)
Olive oil
Garlic
2 bay leaves

This is a pain in the butt, but the result is worth it. Troy did say that Roma tomatoes were easier, and he’s right (natch!). Boil a big pot of water and get another bowl or pot of cold water at the ready. Cut an “X” into the bottom of each tomato. Once the water’s boiling, pop the toms in for 30 seconds, then fish out with a slotted spoon and put in the cold water.

Their skin should start to peel off, and this is where the fun starts. Peel them all, then slice them in half or quarters lengthwise. Scoop out all the bits in the middle, the seeds and all sorts. Now, Troy says that you should keep this, blend it and pass it through cheesecloth to make “tomato water” which you can then make a gelée out of, but that’s a little out of my league. I’ll leave that to Troy!

Once you’ve scraped them all, having not given up in the middle thinking you’d be better off buying this in a can, heat up a nice large frying pan. Put in a ton of olive oil to at least coat the bottom of the pan, then add the tomatoes, 4 or 5 cloves of garlic (or to taste) and the bay leaves. Now let those cook slowly, ever so slowly, for about three hours, stirring now and then to make sure the garlic and bay leaves get around the pan.

Once they’ve all all but dissolved and the garlic mush apart when you push on them with a back of a spoon, it’s done. Now you can store this in the freezer for a while, or go ahead and make some pizza/pasta sauce, recipe below. (Man, this is a long blog!)

PIZZA/PASTA SAUCE

Sofrito
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs red pepper flakes (optional, if you don’t like a kick in your sauce)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Fry the onion in olive oil until softened; add the garlic and cook for about two more minutes. Add the sofrito and the tomato paste and let cook for five minutes. Add the oregano and red pepper and let cook for about 10 minutes on a low heat. Add salt and pepper when it’s just about finished. Voilà!

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