Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gourmet grilled pizza

Darling Husband and I were watching Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, which is a cooking show with a blonde sous chef from Iron Chef America. She is loud, brash and overly dramatic, doing lots of voices and little dances and arm swoopies to emphasize what she says. She also uses fist fulls of salt in every dish. We love to hate her. We also love her bolognase recipe. Grudgingly, we admit she knows what she's talking about.

On this last episode, she was making grilled pizzas. "Who knew you could grill pizza?" she asked. Uh, we did?

Grilled pizza is certainly not a new idea, but it's done often for a reason. It's good. We buy our pizza dough already made at Wegman's. I don't even try to make my own. It has yeast in it and I've never been able to activate yeast properly. Store bought tastes wonderful and saves me the stress. The trick is to let it come to room temperature before you work with it. If not, the dough won't be very elasticy (I'm sure there's a chemical gluten explanation here, but all I know is cold dough rips) and your pizzas will have thin places and tears. It should be noted, however, that a thin place gets nice and crispy and even a bit charred, which adds to the flavor but leaks cheese.

You could make your pizzas individual sized or big enough to share. For a party, having individual pizza crusts done ahead of time and a buffet full of possible toppings encourages individuality and tasty creativity. Our niece and nephew enjoy topping their own, too.

Usually we make individual sized. We portion out our dough, then flatten and stretch each piece individually. You can use a little flour to help you along, or you can use oil. Oil will keep the dough from sticking to the grill, but flour seems to work better for us. I don't get hung up on making perfectly round pizzas, but instead stretch the dough where it needs stretching (usually they're triangles). The uncooked crusts will contract a bit, left on the cutting board, but are easily stretched back out just before putting on the grill, directly on the rack.

We cook the crusts until toasty and lightly charred on both sides, flipping as needed. If the dough isn't stretched enough, it might burn on the outside but still be chewy and underdone in the middle. We prefer to err on the side of too thin.

Last night, we decided to do a single kind of poshy pizza instead of individualized toppings. We chose a blend of three cheeses, shiitake mushrooms, prosciutto and an herb chimichurri. As these were the toppings, a red sauce was out of the question. Growing up, a white pizza wasn't really pizza to me, but I've really softened.

I made the chimichurri out of minced flat leaf parsley, oregano and basil, mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper and some freshly squeezed lime juice. We dabbed this onto the crust first. On top of that, we scattered the shiitake , which I had previously sauteed until soft. Then we topped with sliced kasseri, fontinella and pont l'eveque cheeses. Kasseri is firm and salty; fontinella is creamy and mild. Pont l'eveque is soft to the point of liquidy at room temperature, with a rind like camembert but a nicely stinky quality. The prosciutto came next, to allow it to get the full benefit of the heat and, therefore, crisp up. We finally topped it with the remaining chimichurri.

Usually we'd put the pizzas back on the grill and allow the heat to melt it, but this time we chose to put them under the broiler for a more direct flame application.

The result? Well, it was gooey and bright, fresh and salty. In my world, that's a hit. The cheeses had blended and filled in all the cracks. We had left the rind on the pont l'eveque and that was a nice touch. The prosciutto had become crispy, and the saltiness was nicely set off by the mushrooms. I might have wanted more mushrooms on mine, as the taste of them was a bit lost in most bites. The herbs in the chimichurri were wonderfully fresh tasting, with nice grassy notes. Lime juice was tangy and sour, highlighting the natural sweetness in the mushrooms. It was best when screamingly hot, the cheese super melty.

We had leftovers for breakfast/lunch. I didn't like it cold, but a minute in the microwave helped quite a bit.


  1. Just so you know, I am sitting here drooling into my keyboard.

  2. We'll make them for you, happily. :-)