Dinner Party Series: August


I’m failing on the blog front lately, but I can’t help it. My twins are BUSY and I’m hanging on by a thread. Not just from keeping up with them all day long, but making sure they’re learning and growing each day – that’s a challenge. Or maybe that’s just pressure moms put on themselves unnecessarily; babies used to literally grow up in caves and they were still helping their moms hunt for dinner by the age of 5.

Anyway, this dinner party post is too late. You really only have 8 days left to use it. Just kidding! Because I’m selecting grilled pizza for this month, and pizza is good ALWAYS. And I’m using grilled pizza for this month because we just went to a dinner party at my friend Annie’s house and grilled pizzas were the theme, and it was perfect. It was so much fun, really interactive, and at the end we got to eat PIZZA. I also feel like we all really bonded over the stressful yet satisfying act of rolling out pizza crust into something reasonable looking.

I’m offering two approaches here – buy the pizza stuff and make the salad, or make the pizza stuff and buy the salad.


Appetizer: Simple platter of roasted nuts and summer fruit

Pizza:        Homemade grilled pizza here and here or buy all the stuff    somewhere like Jimmy’s Food Store in Dallas

Salad:        Italian Chopped Salad or buy a prepared/bagged salad at the store

Dessert:    Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

To execute:

  1. Bake cheesecake the day before.
  2. If making pizza, prepare the dough the night before or morning of. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Prepare nut/fruit plate before guests arrive.
  4. Prepare salad before guests arrive.
  5. When ready to grill pizzas, roll out the dough, brush with oil, and grill on high heat first without the toppings. When dough crisps up, add toppings and return to grill until cheese melts.

I’m obsessed with homemade pizza. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pizza Hut (yes Pizza Hut), Domino’s, Louie’s and Coal Vines (Dallas pizza joints), but from time to time I want my own. Many people (i.e., my husband) are of the mindset that there is just no reason to make homemade pizza, when it has already been perfected elsewhere. But the truth is I’m not trying to be Louie, or the Pizza Hut man with the hat. It is a different type of pizza, lighter and fresher perhaps, but delicious all the same.

John’s brother and his wife were visiting from Geneva, Illinois this weekend, and we wanted to have everyone over for dinner on Sunday night. We wanted to grill, but I was sick of the same old grilling options. Aha! A grilled pizza party. It sounded fun, and it was.

The secret to perfect homemade pizza is obviously the crust. I tried a new technique this time, and I will never go back. We like thin and crispy crust, so if you like chewy then this is not for you.

I used this recipe and technique here, which requires a 24-hour rising period. I also used bread flour, which has a higher gluten content than all-purpose, and helps produce the crispiness. The crust was amazing – very crispy, and very flavorful from the overnight refrigeration.

After letting the dough rise for 24 hours, I took it out of the fridge to bring to room temperature before rolling – this took about 1.5 hours. I divided it into three pizzas for ease of grilling and to maximize my options for pizza toppings (one of the benefits of homemade pizza – multiple varieties!). Preheat the grill to high (about 500 degrees), and brush both sides of the pizza dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Brush the grates with olive oil as well, then throw the pizza dough onto the grill. Close the lid and let cook for a few minutes. When the bottom has dark grate marks and is firm enough to flip, use a couple spatulas to turn it over, and cook a few more minutes. I did this with each crust, then brought them inside for topping. I made 3 varieties – BBQ chicken,

Sausage and Red Pepper,

and Margherita.

For the margherita pizza, I topped the crust with pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, and thinly sliced fresh basil. I then threw each pizza in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese and finish baking the crust.

I feel really happy all over again looking at that picture. And really happy to know there are some leftover slices in my fridge at home…

Here is my helpful husband doing the wretched job of slicing the pizzas (I can’t explain my unfound hatred for this process)..

And here are the happy pizza party attendees (aka John’s family):

BBQ Chicken Pizza

It used to be hard for me to understand BBQ Chicken Pizza people. Why in the world would one choose to order that over your standard, delicious, amazing, traditional tomato sauce pizza? You know the old saying – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I think whoever came up with that had pizza in mind.
Well, I’ve turned a new leaf. I moved into a new neighborhood, started going to new restaurants, and started doing new things. Marriage being one of them, BBQ pizza being the other. One of our favorite neighborhood restaurants has BBQ chicken pizza on the menu – and I don’t know if it was newlywed bliss, severe starvation, or one too many glasses of wine – but I ordered it a few months ago. And I loved it. And I’ve been eating it nearly every weekend since.
And, to get to the point, I wanted to make it at home. The key(s) to good BBQ chicken pizza – crispy crust, tender pulled chicken, good BBQ sauce.
Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
1 package yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 skinless chicken breasts, bone-in
1/2 onion, sliced
BBQ sauce
Fresh Mozzarella
Start by mixing the pizza dough. In a liquid measuring cup, mix one cup of warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let it stand there for a few minutes to get all foamy.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flours and salt. Pour in the warm water and mix. Add the honey and oil. Knead together until combined. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. Cover the bowl and let rise for about an hour and a half.
Now, cook the chicken. There is a lot of flexibility here – you can use leftover chicken, grilled chicken, plain baked boneless skinless chicken…but I recommend this method if you have the time.
Preheat the oven to 300. Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts, browning all sides.
Throw in the sliced onions.
Drizzle with some BBQ sauce (a cup or so) and a little more olive oil.
Cover the pot and place in the oven. Bake for an hour and a half, and remove from the oven.
Now it should be time to roll out the dough. Increase the oven temp to 450. My wonderful and thoughtful husband surprised me with a really great pizza stone – which works wonders on a pizza crust. I highly recommend you get one. If you don’t have one, a baking sheet will be fine. Place the pizza stone/baking sheet in the hot oven to heat it up.
Roll out the dough to your desired thickness. We like really thin, crispy, crust – I rolled out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkles with a little salt.
Take the pizza stone from the oven, and drizzle with olive oil and flour. Use a brush to spread out evenly over the stone. This is a little hard to do without burning your hands, but you’ll find a way.
Place the pizza dough in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, pull apart the chicken. It should just fall off the bone.
Remove the pizza crust from the oven….
Spread with BBQ sauce….
Add the chicken…
And plenty of fresh sliced mozzarella.  On half of the pizza I threw on some corn. Sadly, it was canned. Texas has bad corn. This is a great addition though and highly recommended.
Bake the pizza at 450 for about 10-12 minutes, until the crust looks crisp and the cheese is slightly browned.  And that’s all, folks!

Whenever I suggest making homemade pizza for dinner, my fiance says ‘there are just some things that are better at a restaurant.’  I always give in because he does have a point, why make something yourself when someone else has already mastered it to perfection? I could eat Louie’s pizza in Dallas everyday of my life. Louie makes a mean pizza.

However, there are several reasons to make your own pizza. 1. It’s fun to make 2. You can customize it (i.e., lighter on the cheese!!) 3. It truly is delicious!!!

I bit the bullet this weekend and made this pizza recipe (without telling my fiance about it ahead of time) – and I turned him into a believer. It was wonderful, maybe not Louie’s wonderful, but homemade wonderful – which can be just as good. I like grilling the toppings and crust, then finishing it in the oven. Why grill the pizza at all? Because it tastes more like the brick oven (or woodfire, etc) pizza that restaurants seem so eager to advertise. They must know what they’re doing, so I will follow their lead.

Crust Recipe:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour (bread flour is key for a crispier crust; all-purpose makes it chewier)
  • 1 package instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the bread flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the warm water and oil; mix until combined. Take the dough out and place on a lightly floured surface. Gently knead to form a ball; if dough is too sticky add a pinch more flour; if it is too dry you can add more water. Place the dough back into the bowl and set in a warm place in the house (75 degrees is good). Let rise until the ball doubles in size, about 1 hr.  This is my dough, enjoying an afternoon in my favorite room by the knockout roses.

While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings.

Pizza Toppings (for one large pizza):

  • 1/2 lb mild italian sausage (if you are in Dallas, Central Market has the best!)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 sweet onion
  • Chopped basil
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella to taste
  • Olive oil

In a saute pan over medium heat, brown the sausage and drain. Heat the grill to medium heat. Chop the pepper and onion into large pieces, toss with olive oil and S P, and lay directly on the grill. Grill until slightly browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and chop into smaller pieces, about 1/2 inch wide. Heat the grill to high.

When the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and place it on a floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough until it is about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. I like really thin, crispy pizza, so the thinner the better. It helps to roll it out, let it rest for a second, then roll again. This process gives you the thinnest crust.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 450. Brush one side of the crust with olive oil. Place it on a floured pizza stone or pizza pan to take out to the grill. I find the best technique to move it onto the grill is to just pick it up with both hands and throw it on there, oil side down. Sure you lose a little of the shape here, but if you’re not Bobbie Flay it is tricky to do it any other way.
I didn’t take a picture here because I was too concerned about burning the crust (or my fingers) – but I left the pizza on the grill for about 2-3 minutes, until crispy brown on the side.

From here, you can either flip and finish on the grill, or move to the oven. It’s easier to finish in the oven, so that’s what I did. Slide the pizza dough back onto the pizza pan (using tongs), and bring inside for your toppings.

Brush the top of the crust with olive oil (this keeps the sauce and toppings from sogging up the pizza). Add the pizza sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. I chopped up about a quarter cup of basil to add some flavor, and it was delicious. Place the pizza in the oven and cook for about 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is slightly browned.

This is a fun dinner party pizza, served with salad and plenty of wine!