Friday, June 16, 2017

Fire up Your Grill for Pizza

For anyone who loves food, when it's done on the grill, it just tastes better. In my opinion, this goes for pizza as well as anything else. I learned about making pizza on the grill many years ago, and every summer, at least once, I make grilled pizza. It tastes so good.
Grilled Pizzas
Grilled Pizzas: Potato, Rosemary & Gorgonzola on the left; Margherita on the right.

Two of the pizzas, (photos shown here) that I am most fond of are the traditional Margherita Pizza with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, and one made with potatoes - yes, potatoes - that I first tasted when in Las Vegas one time. From the visuals of that long-ago pizza, it had sliced baked potato, sprinkles of fresh, chopped rosemary, and Gorgonzola cheese crumbled over top. It was absolutely heavenly. I salivate when thinking about either of these variations. I have tried others, but today I am going to feature these two. 

Logistics of Grilling Pizza

Grilled Margherita Pizza
Grilled Margherita Pizza
There are logistics to making pizza on the grill. It is not a "pile it on at leisure and then bake" kind of thing. Instead, the crust has to be cooked on one side, and only then are toppings placed on the baked side. This means it is of crucial importance to have every single thing you need right at hand. It takes approximately 2 to 3 minutes over a hot grill to cook one side of the crust. When you flip it over to bake the other side, the clock is ticking. Any toppings have to be put in place quickly and the lid closed so they can cook. Any time spent while adding toppings ultimately counts as part of the the total time for cooking the opposite side of the crust. 

When making any kind of pizza, I like to brush the crust with olive oil and sprinkle with a thin coating of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Then I add the toppings. I do this same thing with the grilled pizza, so it is important to have the oil in a bowl with a pastry brush handy and also have the grated cheese handy. Then come the rest of the toppings. For the potato version, you will need to have a small potato (per pizza) already baked and cooled, then sliced about ¼-inch thick. Have a small container with some freshly chopped rosemary, and a container with Gorgonzola crumbles.

For the Margherita pizza, you'll need to have some tomato slices, preferably from a drier, Roma type tomato (you don't want lots of watery tomato liquid softening that nice, crunchy crust!). Then, a bag of mozzarella shreds and some fresh basil leaves will round out those ingredients.
Have all toppings assembled and ready to hand
Have all toppings assembled and ready to hand

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts, but just arrange everything on a big baking sheet and have it nearby, so as soon as you flip the crusts over, you will be all set to top the pizzas. 

But there is yet another consideration to remember: You have to be able to lift these pizzas off the grill with ease, so that means you will be making little pizzas, about 10-inches in diameter. They are done in no time flat, so time is really not a bit issue. But small size is important. This also means you cannot overload with the toppings. Just imagine trying to slide an overly loaded pizza onto a plate and having all the toppings slip-sliding away. Not a good picture. So keep in mind  that the toppings need to be sparing. Less is more in this instance. But you will be rewarded with the most exquisite pizza experience: biting into that amazingly crispy crust with the added flavors of grilling, added to the particular topping flavors and oh-my-goodness. . .it's heavenly.

Just to recap:

  1. Have pizza dough made and ready.
  2. Roll pizza dough to small, 9 or 10-inch rounds, maximum.
  3. Heat the grill to hot.
  4. Have all topping ingredients assembled, ready and close at hand. 
  5. Place a 10-inch piece of dough onto the hot grill, close the lid and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Three at a time is manageable.
  6. With tongs or spatula, flip the pizza crust(s) over. They should be nicely baked, crisped and with prominent grill marks.
  7. Onto this baked side, quickly add the toppings, then close the lid and cook for an extra total time since flipped of another 2 to 3 minutes. Timing will depend on how hot the grill is.
The pizzas are done when the bottom crust is nice and crispy, and the cheese on top is melted. Gorgonzola cheese does not melt like mozzarella, so keep this in mind.

Many pizza restaurants will sell pizza dough. Or you can make your own. I make mine with a recipe I had played with for some time. I've tried others, and while delicious, sometimes they are too fussy in the process. For my pizza dough, I use the recipe found here, along with a Buffalo Chicken Pizza recipe. This pizza dough recipe will likely make at least three or possibly 4 small pizza crusts. I haven't ever used all of one recipe to make my grilled pizzas. My husband wants his toppings piled high and baked, so we divide the dough accordingly. 😏 If you need more than three or possibly 4 small pizzas, double the dough recipe accordingly.

Grilled Pizza (Margherita or Potato, Rosemary and Gorgonzola)

For one 9 to 10-inch pizza (multiply for added pizzas)

Pizza dough (see recipe here)
Grilled Potato, Rosemary & Gorgonzola Pizza
Grilled Potato, Rosemary & Gorgonzola Pizza

Pastry brush
Olive oil for brushing
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 or more as needed, Roma tomatoes, sliced
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil leaves for strewing

Pastry brush
Olive oil for brushing
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 small potato, baked, cooled, sliced
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Gorgonzola cheese crumbles

Start making the pizza dough about 4+ hours ahead, so it will be ready for you when needed.

Heat the grill to quite hot. Roll out portions of the pizza dough to 9 or 10-inches wide, not too thick. They may shrink back on themselves; just let them rest a few minutes to relax the gluten and re-roll.

Assemble all the topping ingredients and utensils on a large tray and place them somewhere very near to hand. Lift a rolled-out pizza crust and quickly set onto the hot grill grate. If you are making multiples, very quickly set the remaining crusts on the grill grate, then close the lid. Time for two minutes, then open the lid and check to see if the under-side of the crust is crisp. If not, close the lid for an extra minute. Once crisped, use a spatula or tings to turn the crusts.

Now, working as quickly as possible, brush the crusts with olive oil, and sprinkle with a thin layer of Parmesan cheese. Add on the toppings for either kind of pizza, as desired:

MARGHERITA: Place tomato slices onto the Parmesan, sprinkle on some fresh basil and mozzarella.

POTATO, ROSEMARY & GORGONZOLA: Set potato slices atop the Parmesan layer, then sprinkle with some fresh rosemary and strew Gorgonzola crumbles over top.

Once toppings are in place, taking into account the time since the crusts were flipped over, close the lid and time for another 2 minutes. Check the pizzas; if done to your liking, using a spatula, slide the pizzas onto plates or large baking sheets. Cut the pizzas into quarters and revel in the sound of the knife crunching through the crust!

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Additions to Fettuccine Alfredo

Afternoon snacks with Julia
Afternoon Snacks with Julia
My (ex) daughter-in-law, Julia (now just considered daughter), came to visit last weekend. We bond over food, among other things and enjoy discussing what we might do next. When she was planning to come, I asked her what foods she would like me to make, and one of them was a Fettuccine Alfredo dish. 

The main reason was that since my husband got me a pasta maker, she figured it would be de rigueur to use it at least once. So once she made that part of the decision, it went on to additions to the dish. She suggested chicken and asparagus, mushrooms and Italian sausage. Lots of stuff to add in, but I will say it was absolutely delicious. Normally I am really not a sausage person. Especially not fresh sausage. I do eat smoked sausage on occasion but almost never fresh, unless I add it to spaghetti sauce. So it was an experiment for me.
Fettuccine Alfredo topped with Grilled Chicken, Sausage and Asparagus
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken, Sausage & Asparagus

I opted to grill the chicken, sausage and asparagus, as grilling just makes things taste so much better. To make the Alfredo sauce, I started out by steeping a lot of garlic in butter for a couple of hours over a low warming burner. I added some sage leaves for flavor. Before starting the sauce, I took out the spent sage leaves and added a couple tablespoons of Fino Sherry and cooked it out. Unfortunately, at this juncture, I was also starting to make the pasta, showing Julia the use of the pasta machine. Distracted, as we tend to get when discussing almost anything, I completely forgot about the garlic butter and Sherry on the stove and suddenly I smelled something burning. The pot was blackened, so I had to stop, scrub out the pot, and start over from scratch with garlic and butter (no "steeping" this time round), add the Sherry and go from there. Oh well; it happens to the best of us. It still came out great.
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken, Sausage & Asparagus
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken, Sausage & Asparagus

I had grilled the chicken (2 very tiny breasts) whole, then sliced it in long strips. I grilled 2 Italian sausage links (probably about 6 to 7 ounces total) whole, then sliced them on the bias. I grilled the asparagus whole, then cut into lengths. Julia sauteed the mushrooms while I was cutting the meats. All in all, with the amount of meats in there, I feel that this should feed about 6. We sort of pigged out a bit between the three of us at the meal and after giving her some to take home, we had only one portion left. It was just delicious, and I loved the sausage in there so much that a few days later I decided to make it again, only this time with only the remaining 3 Italian sausage links (no chicken), mushrooms and some sugar snap peas, just because I had them in the fridge. 
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Sausage, Mushrooms & Sugar Snap Peas
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Sausage, Mushrooms & Sugar Snap Peas

The first time we made it, I chose to add the sauteed mushrooms to the Fettuccine Alfredo, pour that into a large bowl and top it with the grilled meats and asparagus, as shown in the photo above. It made a pretty presentation, though you couldn't really see the pasta underneath all the toppings. The second time, I just combined the mushrooms, sausage and sugar snap peas with the pasta and served it that way, seen at left. Either way was great. The type of meats is totally optional. The kind of vegetable is optional. This was just Julia's particular craving, which I was more than happy to create.

I will admit though, that it is a but of a production to make all this and combine it. Lots of "moving parts," so to speak. The garlic and butter to steep ahead of time. The pasta can perfectly easily be cooked store bought pasta of your choosing. The meat or meats can be baked, fried or grilled at your leisure, and the vegetable, whether asparagus, sugar snap peas or other, can be grilled, steamed, microwaved or whatever. The mushrooms can be from a can, if preferred, or left out if mushrooms are not to your taste. But there are still lots of items to be prepared. And then, of course, the Alfredo sauce. Assembly is simple, once all the ingredients are readied. Another option is to grill (or bake or fry) the meats ahead of time and just reheat before adding to the pasta. As for the vegetables, they are much nicer at that "crisp-tender" stage than leftover and reheated to an unappetizing color, so I suggest that those, at least, are cooked just before adding them in.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken, Sausage & Asparagus

Serves at least 6
Fettuccine Alfredo with Sausage & Snow Peas
Fettuccine Alfredo with Sausage & Snow Peas

8 ounces fettuccine noodles

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
10 fresh sage leaves, whole
2 tablespoons Fino (dry) Sherry or dry white wine
¾ cup milk
¾ cup heavy cream
5 - 6 ounces cream cheese
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¾ cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

4 - 6 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika

6 ounces mild Italian sausages

8-ounces fresh mushrooms (Baby Bella), sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Fino (dry) Sherry
1 bunch asparagus, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder and a drizzle of olive oil
(or substitute 8 ounces sugar snap peas) 

Start the Alfredo Sauce, time permitting, at least ½-hour and up to 3 hours ahead by setting the butter in a medium-large saucepan with the sage leaves and garlic and allowing it to steep in just barely warm butter. If time does not permit, simply saute the garlic with the sage leaves very gently until softened and the harsh, raw flavor is cooked out. Remove the sage leaves before continuing with the sauce. 

If using chicken, dry the meat and sprinkle with a combination of the salt, oregano, onion powder and paprika. Grill (or fry or saute) the chicken until done and set aside. Grill the Italian sausage until done, at least 14 to 16 minutes, until completely cooked through and set aside. When ready to use, slice the chicken into long narrow strips and slice the sausage on the bias.

Grill the asparagus until it just barely starts to bend in the center. Once done, slice them into lengths as desired. If substituting sugar snap peas, slice them in half, diagonally and steam for 7 to 8 minutes.

Saute the mushrooms in the 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle them with salt and saute until browned. Once browned add in the second 2 tablespoons of Sherry and cook until completely evaporated. 

Set a large pot of water to boil. Just as it boils, add in about 2 tablespoons of salt and then add the fettuccine. Cook as per package directions. Once cooked al dente, drain the noodles, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking water. Rinse the noodles briefly, drain and return them to the dry pot.

To finish the Alfredo sauce, add in the Sherry and cook over medium heat until the Sherry is evaporated. Add in the milk and cream and bring to just under boiling. Add in the cream cheese, in chunks, and stir until very soft (it may not completely melt). Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano cheeses and cook until they melt. Add the mushrooms to the sauce. Pour the sauce over the noodles in the pan and toss with pasta tongs to combine. Pour out into a large bowl and top with the meat(s) and vegetable. Alternately, just add all the meats and vegetable to the pot and stir, then turn it all out into a large bowl to serve. 

If the sauce looks too dry, add in some or all of the pasta cooking water to thin down. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.