Welcome to a summer of (probably, mostly) being able to socialize — but the cost of entertaining over a meal is reaching stratospheric levels.
It was one thing to prepare self-soothing meals like duck or steak during the pandemic slog when it was for just you and yours. But now that grocery prices are on a dizzying ascent and we can (finally!) entertain and have a slew of folks over, that’s not going to make sense for most of us.
So, what’s a food loving, sociable person to do? Enter: grilled pizza.
This has long been a summer stand-by in my home and this favorite dish will likely be our go-to when we have friends over this summer.
Not only are grilled pizza delicious, interactive (everybody can get behind a pizza toppings bar!), and easy, there’s an unexpected bonus: they’re a great, budget-friendly way to use up items languishing in the fridge, or those canned items in your pantry you stocked up on when we never knew what we’d be able to find at the store.
We recently hosted our first pizza party of the summer with friends and their grade school kiddo, and the collaborative dinner was a runaway success (if by runaway success you mean everybody swapping slices and getting into a friendly competition over whose pizza toppings were best).
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Here are a few tips for hosting your own grilled pizza night.
How to pick the perfect dough for a grilled pizza
Sure, you could make your own pizza dough. We’ve tried, with expert advice from the Pizza Lupo team. But, let’s just say there’s a reason that team runs a successful pizzeria and we don’t.
Pizza dough is an art and science that takes a whole lot of finesse. We need to keep things simple, so my husband I grab pre-made doughs from Lotsa Pasta, 3717 Lexington Road. The same pre-made dough is also often available at Paul’s Fruit Market shops in the freezer section.
Why you should pre-grill your pizza crust
This one’s optional, but if you can’t always rely on the weather (Louisville, I’m looking at you) or you want to be able to jump right into building your pies when friends arrive, go ahead and roll out your individual pizzas crusts and grill them ahead of time. If it’s grossly hot (hi, again, Louisville), this also lets you cool down or shower before company after sweating it out at the hot grill.
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Our tried and true approach is to get your grill good and hot, and par-cook each side of the dough for just a few minutes. This comes down to knowing your grill and keeping a close eye as the crusts are cooking.
How to raid your fridge and pantry for pizza toppings
Ok, you’ve made your crust. Now, what do you put on the pizzas? For the summer of grilled pizza, anything and everything goes.
Our friend wanted to try a home version of a bacon and date pizza from Noble Funk Brewing Co., 922 S. 2nd St., so she graciously brought several ingredients for that, including arugula and dates, plus some other goodies.
I often like a classic tomato/basil/fresh mozzarella situation, so we planned on those ingredients. And then while I was picking up wine at Logan Street Market, 1001 Logan St., my husband — who likes a supreme pizza — assembled a veritable smorgasbord of random things from our fridge and pantry (olives, mushrooms, and more olives!) that I added to when I got home and dug through the produce and cheese sections of our fridge.
Leftover cheeses and hams from a charcuterie board we shared recently? The last few spoons of crumbled blue cheese in the container? Sold!
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We also caramelized some shallots, filled a bowl with shredded pizza cheese, made a simple sauce of canned Pomi sauce with a handful of fresh herbs, and added a few more goodies to the spread like smoked honey, sriracha mayo, Bourbon Barrel Foods seasonings, and fresh basil.
(Pro tip: a lot of what doesn’t get used on pizzas would be great thrown into an omelet the next day!.)
As summer bears down, also try grilled farmer’s market veggies; everything from corn to eggplant is wonderful on a grilled pizza.
How best to grill a pizza
It was easy enough to add our friends’ contributions when they arrived, so we opened some wine and made one simple tomato and cheese pizza right away to cut up and snack on as we milled about the kitchen island deciding our approach to the main pizza event . From the kiddo on up, we chose our own adventures and ended up with five completely different pizzas.
My husband staffed the grill, and as each pizza came together, he tossed it on and cooked, lid closed, just long to melt the cheeses and warm up the crust.
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On grilled pizza, it’s all about the toppings
I’d forgotten the friendly rivalry we’ve had with these friends over a couple Old Louisville neighborhood chili cook-offs, but it all came back when we started cutting up our pizzas (into easily shareable square bites) and passing them around to compare .
Naturally I’m biased, but I loved my concoction of the following: olive oil brushed on the crust, apricot cheese, fresh mozzarella our friend brought from Harvey’s Cheese Shop, shredded mozzarella, crumbled blue cheese, dates, scattered bites of cooked bacon from Red Hog Restaurant & Butcher Shop, 2622 Frankfort Ave., shallots, fresh basil, arugula, and salted honey.
We also had a supreme on deck with all the meats and veggies, a half and half extravaganza, and a delicious ham and bacon plus dates, cheese, and sriracha sauce pie.
I’m calling it a tie between that one and mine, but when you’re gathered around a table sharing a meal with friends — that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and allowed you to get rid of some items in your kitchen — everyone wins.
Tell Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @bourbonbarbarella on Instagram.