I have lots to blog from the long July 4 weekend; Lots of food activities. We started the long weekend off on Thursday with an invitation to a few of the fun neighbors to welcome a new neighbor. My food friends, Tom and Lucia were joined by my drinking friends, Jimmy and Herme. A house sold across the street and we wanted to meet the new folks. Invitations were made, and all accepted. What better way than with a party on the deck and something from the grill. I had lots of leftovers from the previously blogged about party, so I decided to use what I could as toppings for grilled pizzas! The advance work takes a little effort, but well worth it.
OK, morning before the party, get your dough ready. The original recipe came from Recipezaar that I adapted a little for my tastes (more sugar and sea salt instead of table salt)
6 Cups All purpose floor
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 teaspoon yeast
2 cups room temperature water (very important, as the yeast will not work it's magic with cold water)
9 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
Mix the dry ingredients in your trusty Kitchenaid mixer (what would we do without it). Add water and 3 tablespoons of the oil. Mix at low to medium speed with the Captain Hook bread attachment, until dough forms a rough ball and the sides of the bowl are scrapped off. Should be about 5 minutes. You may need to add flour or water to get a good dough ball.
Take out of the mixer and let it rest for about 20 minutes. NOTE: this measurements are max to fit in my mixer. It easily feeds 6, but I was having 10 people, so I made a second batch while the first was resting. The remaining instructions are for one batch at a time.
OK, after the resting period, mix the dough once again for a couple minutes until the dough is smooth but not sticky. Now, take this dough and roll into an even tube, divide that in half, and then divide each half into three equal amounts, making six total equals.
have six small ziplock bags open and ready. Then pour a little oil in your palm and form each dough into balls, making sure that the entire ball is oiled...repeat.
Seal the bags and let sit for about an hour. Then Refrigerate each bag for at least three hours. About two hours before you are going to cook, let them return to room temp! Also, at this time, it is a good time to take the fresh mozzarella cheese out of the fridge and let it get up to room temp. For ease, I found a brand that comes precut into slices. They are a little thicker than I prefer, but work well enough.
These balls keep in the fridge for a couple weeks, and I have some in the freezer for whenever I get a bug up my butt to make these. Like I said earlier, they are perfect for left overs. Take a couple out of the fridge 3 hours before dinner time, and you have a great pizza in less than 30 minutes (better than Dominos).
OK, I like to cook while the party is running, as opposed to having everything cooked and ready to serve when guests arrive. These are just the right size for a personal grilled pizza for each of your guests. BUT, in order to keep things moving, an hour of prep time prior to arrivals is needed.
First, have drinks ready. I know from experience that most of my neighbors are beer drinkers. Tom and Jim bring a small cooler with what they like. Since I was having strangers, and I didn't know their drinking habits, I made up a pitcher of Mojitos prior to their arrival. It only takes 5 minutes, has a great presentation (fruit and mint flouting in the pitcher) and is a light refreshing rum drink...perfect for a summer evening. I have a pretty well stocked bar, and can make up something if they ask, but if I have a pitcher of something ready, a cooler of beer (Killians for me) and a bottle of wine open (MRS My Year on the Grill's drink of choice), I have never had someone ask for something different. BTW, it is cheaper, prettier and tastes MUCH better if you build the drink from scratch. Do not buy one of those premixed drinks in a bucket. In addition, I had a dozen beers in the cooler being iced down. Drinks are ready.
OK, 55 minutes to party time, and time to start chopping. From my party a week ago (see previous blog post) I had most of the ingredients ready...just not in pizza form. I had red onions. I was going to saute them prior to putting on the pizza, so they will be nice and sweet and caramelized. No need to buy the vadalias for this. I also had gone to KC's farmer's market and bought a bunch of sweet peppers. For last week's party, I had stuffed them, wrapped them in bacon. But I also held back a dozen or so for this party. I chopped my onions a little course. Each piece about the size of a quarter. Same with the peppers, after I had cut the stems off and cleaned the seeds out. These I put in a large saute pan with a little olive oil and simmered them while I got the meat ready.
That took about 10 minutes. So, 45 minutes to arrival. The meat I was using my leftovers from last week (see the theme...cheap party of 10). I had some of my spiced smokey fatty sausage (only about a pound, goes a long way spread on the pizza). I also had ribs! Debone the ribs and chop coarsely...again, the size of a quarter. In separate saute pans, with a little oil, get them warmed up. The only real short cut i took for this night was to use a jar of premade pizza sauce. In another life, I should have made that up (it also freezes). I actually thought I already had some, turns out, I didn't. Don't you judge me. I dumped the jar into a small sauce pan and warmed it also.
Here's a tip...I warm up all my ingredients prior to putting them on the pizza. It helps the cheese to melt, and your pizza will be served completely warm.
Only ingredient left was mushrooms. I have found that these taste best fresh and near raw. Just cut them (quarter size) and be ready to put them on as is.
OK, another ten minutes gone, go back to your saute pans and make sure they are hot (but not burned. I transfer these into my large cast iron skillet. 1/3 of the skillet onions and peppers, 1/3 holds the rib meat, 1/3 holds the sausage. Keep them separate as best you can, but having them on one pan makes them easy to handle.
I leave these on the burners on low and get my grill fired up. For this, I use my propane grill. Easier to control the temperatures, but simple enough to use charcoal if you prefer. Once the grill is hot, I clean whatever leftovers stuck around from last session, and oil the grate. Use canola or peanut oil, takes the heat better than Olive oil.
Move the sauce pan with the sauce and the skillet with the onions, peppers and meats out to the grill. Move them to the side, just enough to keep them warm. Bring out your room temperature dough balls, cheese and mushrooms.
It is now about 20 minutes til guests start arriving. It takes about 10 minutes for each pizza. My plan is to make a personal pizza for each guest, and I can make three at a time. So, in order to have everyone eating together, time to get cracking. I get started. taking one of the dough balls and forming it into a circle. Mine actually form into an oval, about a foot long and 6 inches wide at their widest part. Thicker crust will form smaller, but I like each to be only about a quarter inch thick. Then, either brush on a coating of canola oil, or take the easy efficient way out, and use the spray can of canola oil and coat each side. This helps for even cooking, nice marks and prevents burning. Next, slap on the hot grill over medium direct heat. I have a large grill that allows me to have room for my pans on the side, about half set for direct medium heat and 1/4 of it set for low indirect heat. While this first is cooking, I start forming the next ball...like an assembly line. by the time I get three pizza doughs on, it is probably time to flip the first. The dough stiffens up, and I like the grill marks to show (having a hot grill to start makes that work). keep an eye, and make sure they do not burn, but you want them to look like they came off a grill.
OK, 10 minutes to guests and time to start building the 'za... Take that first pizza, flip it over onto the indirect side of the grill and start building. I like to have a cheese pizza ready, so...a little sauce, and 4 slices of the mozzarella and move it back to the direct heat side of the grill. let it cook for about 5 minutes (keep an eye, you will know when it is done). I build the other two while the first is finishing. I make an everything and also a mushroom only.
This works well with a second person to do the entertaining while you are doing the cooking. I have all three of my starter pizzas ready when the first guests start arriving. My lovely and talented wife does the cutting into slices (6 slices per 'za). She also makes sure that the drinks start to flow. The starters are just there as appetizers. As the guests arrive, in order of arrival, I start taking orders. Have them belly up to the grill and explain their options. Keep the line moving. always have a dough base started, a flipped pizza being built and a finished pizza being cooked. Should be about 10 minutes total for each.
Everyone arrived timely, but with my system, I was able to have everyone with their individual choices made by 45 minutes after the party started. Our new neighbors brought a sister and brother-in-law. Happy to have them, and was ready for this contingency. Only real thing I needed was the pizza dough. I had extra in the freezer. I am going to make a desert pizza, so I took the extra dough needed for that out of the freezer as soon as I knew I was going to be short. They were not room temperature, but in the hour, they were good enough (hopefully the drinks will improve their taste buds enough not to notice).
They were a huge hit! lots of time to talk, greet meet and enjoy!
But, my work was not done. Once the entrees are finished, clean the grill of the sauce and skillets pans. I set up a double boiler to melt some semisweet chocolate. I also melted some white chocolate. should be about 10 minutes to melt. This was my drinking and mingling time...and the chance for the guests to rave over my cooking (isn't this why we do this?).
OK, dessert...make three more pizza doughs. I make these a little thicker than the "real" pizzas. I want them chewier. Oil both sides, and cook as you did the originals. While these are cooking, mix in a couple tablespoons of cream with the chocolate. This makes it creamier, and easier to drizzle. Once you reach the flipping stage, put a couple tablespoons of softened butter on the uncooked side. it will melt quickly. Sprinkle generously sugar and Cinnamon on the butter. Move over to the hot side and finish. Once it is toasted, transfer to your cutting board and drizzle generously the dark chocolate. Contrast this drizzle with a drizzle of the white chocolate. Cut into six pieces and serve immediately!
OK, here was my only failure for the night. For some reason, my white chocolate caked up and would not drizzle. I ended up putting just a glob on the top. It worked and tasted OK, but in the past, the drizzle of white over dark was much prettier.
The night was a huge success. The new neighbors were welcomed, and we will see them again. My old buddies in the neighborhood were well served and had a great time. six of us stayed until 1 am sitting around the firepit and laughing, talking and sometimes singing along to my ipod mix.
Give it a try. My longest post ever, but MUCH easier than the length of the post would imply. It must be easy. 10 guests, each having individual items cooked, desert and drinks, and all finished in an hour!