My Sigh Saturday: How Not to Grill Pizza

Or, 'Supreme Grilled Pizza Failure'

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I want to cry. This is about as far as I got with my supposed-to-be-epic grilled-pizza session on Saturday. [Photograph: Adam Kuban]

I was so jazzed on Friday night. My friend Justin, who lives a mere three blocks away from Girl Slice and me, was having a Saturday afternoon cookout. He has two grills, and his place is actually the site Kenji and I borrowed to shoot the Slice Grilled Pizza How-To. I was going to prep at home and then carry everything over shortly before grill time. What could go wrong? [If that's not a leading question, I don't know what is. Find out what went wrong after the jump.]

That photo above? That's about as far as I got in the process on Saturday afternoon.

In my book, the No. 1 rule in grilling pizza is TO GET YOUR MISE EN PLACE TIGHT. And I mean tight. And by mise en place, I mean "get your shit together!"

Here's what makes this so heartbreaking: I spent part of Friday night shopping for some ingredients I thought would be really unique on a pizza, something I've never seen done yet something I think might work well. In addition to that, I spent Saturday morning shopping for more (or less) traditional topping ingredients — I was going to re-create a Motorino brussels sprouts pie and a Paulie Gee braised fennel pizza (two recent Top This entries).

Then I spent the afternoon prepping all the ingredients —sautéing the pancetta and the secret ingredients, braising the fennel, deleaving the brussels sprouts. All to the point that I was seriously late to the grill-out. My fault, I know, I should have prepped the day before. And, boy, did I hear it from Girl Slice: "I don't really care, but we're now three hours late to your friend's cookout!"

But I know my friend, and I knew that a 3 p.m. start time meant that all our friends would arrive by 4 p.m. at the earliest and that there'd be some drankin' going on before the grills ever saw coal.

Sure enough, I rolled out the last of my 12 dough rounds at 5:50 p.m., laying them carefully between parchment paper, and by the time we got to the party at 6 p.m., the grills were still cold.

"See, Girl Slice, I told you I know my friends. The party's not even started."

[Girl Slice: Glares death look.]

Well, long story short ... by the time we got the second grill set up (it was unassembled) and fired up, it was 7:30 p.m. And the dough had been sitting, rolled out between parchment and in the warmth of the kitchen, for 1.5 hours. You can guess the rest.

It had started to rise, absorbing the lubricating flour I had dusted on between layers, and had become a huge sticky impossible-to-work-with mess.

"Why don't you reball and reroll the doughs?" Girl Slice asked.

Good idea, mon amour, but at this point, I was operating in foreign territory, and my friend's kitchen counter space was entirely spoken for. Not to mention ... I had not brought along extra flour or a rolling pin (and he's not a baker, so neither were available on hand).

I tried dusting the doughs with okonomiyaki flour (which he did have on hand) and even oiling the crap out of them to try to get them to release from the parchment, but ... even when I could get them safely off the parchment, they were far too risen and sticky to work with.

Girl Slice would later report that she watched one guest make sad face after sad face as I discarded ruined dough after ruined dough while struggling to get them on the grill.

Thankfully, there was still a good amount of food to go around without the pizza and most of the other guests seemed too liquor-lubed to care that pizza was a no-go. But, boy, does it still hurt to think of all the prep I did. Especially when I could picture everything going so right the week before in the same location.

Which brings me back to THE NO. 1 RULE OF GRILLED PIZZA: get your shit together. And the corresponding rule ... WORK QUICKLY.

So, from me, I have no "My Pie Monday" picture as I was hoping. I do have photos of the prep on the "secret ingredient(s)," so with some luck, if I can bust out the grill again this week, I'll have those done for this week's Top This.

Learn from my boneheadedness, folks. I am a cautionary tale.

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