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America's Favorite Pie
Part 2: Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizzas
by John Raven, Ph.B.

Last month we started our pizza phase with how to make pizza pies. Like a good man, a good pizza is hard to find. The chain pizzas I've sampled all taste pretty much the same and vary only in crust texture and toppings.

Our homemade pizza can be anything we want it to be. Before we get into exploring various toppings, let's learn how to make a pizza on the grill. You know, spring will be here soon, and a grilled pizza on your menu is bound to be a favorite.

The same dough recipe works for baked or grilled, but the grilled crust is going to require a bit of manual dexterity. The raw crust will have to be moved from the baking sheet to the grill without tearing it. I know you have all seen the movies of the pizza parlors where they have the big, flat, wooden spatula for moving the pizza into and out of the oven. This tool is called a "peel". If you don't have a peel and don't feel like purchasing one, you can make do with what you have on hand. A flat cookie sheet that has no rim on it will work. If there is a roofer in the family, a big wooden shingle will work. Using either or neither, you should have a good pair of insulated gloves to work around the grill.

I suggest you keep your pizza to a diameter of twelve inches or less for grilling. If you have a big family you can make two, or three and, if I've been invited, make four.

Work your dough out into the desired shape and size. Brush the top with a good olive oil. You should have about a medium heat in your grill. You want to have the coals on one side of your grill, leaving the other side to run cooler and be used for the baking that comes later. The tricky part is you have to turn the crust over so the oiled side goes down toward the heat source. If you use a lipless cookie sheet to move the crust, I think you can get away with oiling the cookie sheet before working the crust out on it, that way you won't have to flip it.

You will have to pay attention once you get the crust on the grill. Start peeking at the underside of the crust after about five minutes. It wonƎt take long for it to get brown. While you are waiting for the bottom to brown, brush the top with more olive oil. When the bottom of the crust is brown to your satisfaction, carefully flip it over to brown the other side.

While it is browning, you load the crust with your toppings. Use things that don't take a long time to cook: cheese, of course, your pizza sauce, thin slices of onion or pepperoni and whatever else you desire. Now slide your pizza over to the side of the grill that has no coals under it and close the lid for a few minutes. When you peek, and the cheese has melted and the toppings are sizzling, it's done.

Barbecue Pizza

Can you top this? When it comes to toppings for your pizza, either grilled or baked, you're pretty much on your own. Everyone knows the classic pizza toppings: marinara sauce, various cheeses, onions, peppers, pepperoni, mushrooms and so forth.

My late friend Cuzin Homer Page, who had a booming barbecue business in Temple, Texas, furnished smoked brisket for a commercial pizza caf in Temple for a while. I never got to sample one of the finished products, but I'll bet it was good.

If I were to construct a barbecue pizza, I would start with a good, thick barbecue sauce. On top of that a layer of sliced brisket or sliced sausage. If you like, I'll put on chicken just for you. I would omit the cheeses. I don't know of any cheese that goes well with barbecue. I would go with just the meat and sauce, and then when it was done and ready to serve, I'd give it a good sprinkle of dill pickle slices and sliced sweet onion. That sounds real good to me.

Come to think of it, a chopped beef pizza would be good, too. Just make sure you don't get that greasy kind of chopped beef; make your own with lean beef.

If you live east of the Mississippi you are permitted to put pulled pork and sauerkraut on your pizza.

Tex-Mex Pizza

Here's a place you can go plum crazy with toppings. Chili, cheese, refried beans, rice and any other Tex-Mex item can be used. It's just like making a big flour tortilla chalupa. Top it off with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes and a dollop of hot sauce.

Fruity Dessert Pizza

This comes out like a flat, thin pie. For sauce on fruit pizzas use a jelly. Apricot goes well with anything, and apple has a nice, mild flavor. You want to thin the jelly so it will spread easily by warming it over a gentle heat. You can do it in the microwave, but you will have to stop and stir it often.

Toppings are whatever strikes your fancy. Apple, banana, pineapple, pears, citrus, tropical fruits all will work. When you get your toppings in place, a light brushing with the warm jelly is in order. You may want to sprinkle a bit of sugar on top. You can really richen this recipe up by adding a few pats of butter around the topping. A caution here: make sure the fruit you use is not too juicy. Drain it well before putting it in place. I think an apple pie pizza would be great. Use thin-sliced apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Put a few pats of butter around and drizzle a tad of lemon juice on top.

If you are the decorating type, a fruit pizza will let you run amuck with your ideas. The colors, shapes and textures of the fruits can be a thing of beauty.

In conclusion, I want you to remember that no recipe is written in stone. They are just rough guidelines for the cook. If something you try just doesn't work out, the dog will appreciate it. If you don't have a dog, you ought have a pen of hogs out in the back yard. They are nature's garbage disposal and, when they get full, you can eat them.

See ya next time.

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