Thai Chicken Pizza
It's grilling season again, and aside from the heat of summer, (of which I am not a fan, and what the hell am I doing living in Georgia?) grilling season is my favorite. I love opening up a fine craft beer, sitting on my adirondack chair, and letting 500 degrees of searing coals send an envious wave of delectable smells into the air ducts of my neighbor's house. Yes I BBQ too, which (for those of you who don't know the difference) means to cook a roast, brisket, chicken, rack of ribs, leg of lamb, etc., at a very low temperature over indirect heat (usually utilizing smoke) until the object is literally falling off the bone, or succulently tender just waiting for my Texas toast and sauce. Do not get me started on grilling!
My other favorite food has got to be pizza. Now in Athens, aside from a couple of places, (Namely Ferrandos Pizzaria), you cannot find a real authentic Italian style or New York style pie. This is not to say that the pizzarias in Athens suck, I am all for corporate pizza when I'm watching the game, and I really like Depalma's wild mushroom pie. There is fantastic pizza in Athens, but if we really want to go back to the roots of pizza in this country we have to go to New York. In 1897 an Italian immigrant reinvented a Napoletana staple food into one of the worlds most eaten foods. New York City was the birth place of New York style pizza. During the year of 1905, Lombardi's was licensed by the City of New York, becoming America's First Pizzeria. (www.firstpizza.com) They still use their original coal burning oven to make the pizza, and it is truly the most perfect pizza I've ever had, until I started making it for myself ON MY FREAKIN' BACKYARD GRILL.
For truly authentic Italian pizza there are a couple of rules. There is no such thing as a meat lover's pie, or supreme pizza where there are more toppings than crust. Pizza is all about the crust, the toppings are an afterthought. Usually on a really well balanced Italian wood fired pizza, there are only three or four ingredients. Sauce (usually just olive oil and garlic, however tomato sauce is appropriate), cheese (usually sliced or balls of mozzarella, provolone, or even shaved parmigiano reggiano) one topping of your choice (pepperoni, prosciutto, calamata olives, etc.) and finally a fresh herb, (usually added after the pizza is cooked) you can also add fresh chopped tomatoes, or other cold items after the pizza is cooked. This balances cold and hot, fresh and crispy with salty and meaty, etc. When doing pizza on the grill it's important to not overload your pie or it will end up not happy.
Next is this. You want your grill hot. You will be doing this pizza on direct heat, so get your coals ready, or turn your gas burners on high and get the space nice and hot. You are going to want a covered grill for this. If you don't have one, a nice wok lid will work great. If you don't have one of those, well... make your pizza inside in the oven, and forget about this recipe.
For the Dough
1 packet of active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water (bathwater temperature)
3 cups of bread flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
In a large stainless steel bowl or the bowl from your trusty stand mixer, bloom your yeast with the water and sugar. (blooming is the act of dissolving your yeast in warm water, and waiting for a nice froth to develop on the top.) Attach your dough hook to your mixer, and add the flour, salt and 1 Tbsp of the olive oil. Knead on low speed for 6-10 minutes. The longer you knead, the more elastic your dough will be. If you don't have a stand mixer, simply stir in your flour, and knead by hand for 10 minutes, allowing the dough to rest for a minute in the middle of the kneading process. When the dough is kneaded, place in a bowl and toss with olive oil to completely coat. Cover the bowl with a towel and let sit one hour. After an hour, punch the dough down, and let it re-rise for another hour.
I love Italian sausage, especially the hot kind. If you use any meat on your pizza that isn't cured (like pepperoni, prosciutto, etc.) you need to make sure and cook the meat completely before topping your pizza with it! The total cooking time for this pizza is just around 4 minutes, so there is not enough time to actually cook raw meat. If you happen to be a werewolf, don't worry about cooking your meat, you'll like it much better raw.
Prosciutto, as thinly sliced as possible makes a lovely pizza topping, as does pancetta (an Italian cured bacon). Pepperoni is of course a staple, but hold out for a good one. Nothing against the Hormel company, it's just that there is much better out there. In other words, look for quality ingredients. As my best friend in high school used to say, "don't marry the girl just because she'll put out, find one to bring home to Mamma!" If you are shopping at a local mega mart, and don't happen to have a market in your neighborhood with a short, balding, squatty guy at the counter wearing an apron that talks in broken English, Boars Head actually makes a decent pepperoni; but the kind wrapped in wax paper hanging from the ceilings at a real Italian deli is the Pavarotti of pepperoni. If they have a black pepperoni, get that too, but just eat it by itself with a nice baguette, block of cheese and fine Chianti. I am Italian by the way, so my reference to Italian Americans is made with tremendous respect and admiration.
For cheese, my choice is smoked mozzarella. It has the same very mild flavor as regular mozzarella, but with a hint of smoke. Cut this into 1/4 inch thick slices. Also provolone cheese slices are fantastic, but make sure you don't use meat that's too salty, otherwise you will overpower your pie with salt. The rule is, the saltier the cheese, the milder the toppings, or the milder the cheese, the saltier the toppings. If you want to use mozzarella cheese, PLEASE DON'T BUY THE GRATED STUFF IN YOUR CHEESE CASE! If you want Dominos pizza, order Dominos for goodness sake, but if you're taking the time to make it from scratch, why create something that will taste the same as something that arrives at your house in 30 minutes or less and only costs you 5 bucks. It's not worth the extra work involved. Get real mozzarella, the kind packed in water, in balls. I like the mini balls, and just toss a few of them on my pizza. However the king is the real mozzarella di buffalo. This cheese is made from the milk of water buffalos. You can buy it, or find it on-line. It's more expensive yes, but it's the best, and dammit, you deserve the best don't you?
My favorite is this. Take a few Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and put them in a small saucepan on the stove. turn on low heat. Add 8 cloves of garlic, uncut, and 3 Tbsp white wine. Cook until the garlic is mashed potato soft. Add a liberal amount of freshly cracked black pepper and some french grey salt. Smash the garlic into the oil with a fork, and baste liberally over your pizza. YUM!
I also like a nice olive tapenade. If you want to try something fun, use the peanut sauce I posted as my very first post with chicken, cilantro, and cheddar cheese for a Thai style pizza.
OK, finally. This is it. Take your dough, and divide it into 4 equal sized portions. Roll your dough out about 1/4 inch thick, and brush one side with olive oil. Place the oiled side directly on the grill, and don't touch it for two minutes. watch for flare-ups. After two minutes, turn the pizza over with a pair of tongs or a pizza peel, and be ready. As soon as that cooked side hits the grill, top your pizza as fast as you can and immediately cover the grill. Wait 2 more minutes. Your pizza is now done. Eat it with relish, and tell your friends.