Food Buzz Challenge #5 Grilled Truffled Pizza with Leeks, Asparagus & Shitake Mushrooms
Pizza. Be it take-out, homemade, served at the greatest pizzeria in town or even frozen, we all love it.
It can be in the style of a chewy New York “pie” or deep dish from Chicago. Rustic or elegant. Heaped with traditional ingredients like mozzarella and sausage, or veering into new territory– thin, charred and delicately drizzled with truffle oil. This way, that way– here, there and everywhere, pizza is a worldwide favorite.
The earliest versions of pizza were probably simple flatbreads baked hot and fast with garlic and pork fat. Once tomatoes hit the shores of the old world, pizza matured into the tomato and cheese topped version with the queenly name of Margherita. It’s often considered the standard bearer. But it’s not the only way to go, pizza has been reinvented countless times and continues to evolve everyday.
Which means honest to goodness pizza can be anything and can go in any direction. But I decided to keep my version as straightforward as possible. A real pizza that I would really eat. Because novelty pizzas are fun, but are they really what you crave? Either way, there’s room for pizza purists and pizza pioneers in this competition. Which makes pizza a great choice for this FoodBuzz Challenge.
And a challenge it is, because in my opinion really good pizza is really hard to make at home. Most kitchens are just not equipped with an oven hot enough or smoky enough to produce really good pizzas.
Pizza stones are designed to help, and they do, but just somewhat. I have seen people line their ovens with bricks, which is very clever, but altogether too much work for me.
Nope. That’s why I decided to grill my pizza for this challenge. I think it’s a brilliant solution because when good dough, stretched thin, meets the red-hot heat of the grill you are guaranteed results as crisp and chewy as a traditional Neapolitan pizza coming from a wood-burning oven.
I consider pizza making to be more technique than recipe. Especially a good grilled pizza. So I am going to concentrate on the process. However, the same can’t be said for the dough. The dough choice is very important in success. So whether it’s from a tried and true recipe, a great local pizza shop or a specialty market, make sure you use the best. (recipe for Basic Pizza Dough & Variations)
I like to roll my dough (call me lazy). I start by kneading a cold, fully proofed and rested fist-sized ball of dough 4 or 5 times. I then form it into a flattend 1-inch thick disc, setting it aside for a few minutes while I prep the work surface with a light dusting of flour. When ready to roll transfer one disc of dough to the floured surface. Then using your fingertips, flatten the dough further working from the center outwards. Finish the dough with a rolling pin, contunuing to work from the center outwards and turning the disc 1/4 turn after each pass. Eventually forming the dough into a 9-inch round or a 7×11-inch oblong. Stack the discs between floured parchment sheets and refrigerate until ready to gril.
There are a few more tricks to getting good results. You need to remember that a wood or charcoal grill is several-hundred degrees hotter than the most blazing setting on your inside oven. So the pizza cooks fast, and the cook must move just as fast.
Temperature is key. You want enough heat to cook the dough quickly, but with out too much scorching. A small test disc is really the best way to gauge temperature so have one handy.
Right before the dough hits the grates brush one side with oil. This will keep the dough from sticking and helps you move quickly once the color starts to form. It also attracts and traps the smoke from the flames, adding an authentic smoky nuance.
You will notice that the dough begins to bubble up in places. At this point use tongs to check the bottom often. Rotate the crust as it cooks if necessary to avoid hot spots. When you are happy with the color (3 to 5 minutes) brush more oil on the topside, flip the crust and add your toppings. You only have a few minutes so have everything you need completely prepared, which may mean pre-cooked. So prep accordingly.
Once you get the flipping technique down, grilling a pizza could not be simpler. Which leaves you and your creativity free to find just the right balance of toppings and flavor combinations. The possibilities are endless. Cooked meats and veggies are good choices, as are fresh or aged cheeses, raw salad greens, herbs, or even ripe fruit.
My version has asparagus and truffle oil. I chose these ingredients partly as a challenge to my brother Grant, who was tasked with choosing a wine for this pizza (hey, it’s only fair, why should he get to coast thru this contest?). But coast he did not! He surprised me with a sparkling Italian wine, though hardly a typical Prosecco. Which seems so right to me, because my recipe is decidedly fresh and a tad sophisticated.
So… am I a pizza purist or pizza pioneer? I hardly know which is which. CLICK here to VOTE!
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
makes 6 nine-inch pizzas CLICK here for a printable recipe
- 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, cut into half moons, and rinsed
- 8 oz shitake mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 8 oz asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1⁄4 c dry white wine
- 1 T thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 lb raw Basic Pizza Dough
- 4 oz camembert cheese, sliced
- truffle oil, to taste
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until beginning to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 4 to 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and wine. Continue cooking until asparagus become bright green, about 2 minutes more. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Form the pizza dough into six 9-inch rounds. Layer them between sheets of parchment or wax paper and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to over night.
Heat a grill until medium-hot. Generously oil one side of as many rounds as comfortable fits on the grill. Put them oil side down onto the grate and cook, turning as needed until golden brown and beginning to char on the bottom. The top should bubble up in places, about 3-5 minutes. Quickly brush the tops with more olive oil and flip.
Working quickly, top each crust with slices of cheese. Once it starts to soften, about 1 minute, add some of the asparagus mixture on top. Cook the pizzas until warmed through and nicely browned on the bottom. Using tongs or a spatula slide each pizza onto a serving plate. Continue with remaining ingredients. garnish with more thyme and a tiny drizzle of truffle oil.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD
My previous Project Food Blog Entries
FoodBuzz Challenge #4: Picturing Spring Rolls