Tag Archives: Pizza

How to Host a Fabulous Winter Outdoor Pizza Party

Several times a year our friends Diane and Jeff host a highly anticipated pizza party in their backyard and thankfully we’re on the invite list.  Their invitation says “The party happens rain or shine, blizzard or sun.” and they mean it.  Last year it snowed and this year we got lucky with highs in the 40’s, but it was still cold!  One bite of the heavenly pizza and the cold was forgotten.  Aside from the pizza at Mamma Rosa’s* in Italy’s Marche region, this backyard pizza is one of the best we have tasted!  The dough has a slight tangy flavor, and is light and fluffy on the inside with just enough crunch to the outside.  The Pelot’s go all out with the party preparations to make it fun; the fire pit and portable heater are set to high, and along with the pizza oven they all provide cozy gathering spots to chat and chase away the cold.  We can’t help but to overeat at their pizza parties!

The dough is started 3 days before the party, allowed to rise several times and separated into individual balls for easy roll-out on party day.  Diane’s stellar recipe is modified from Jamie Oliver’s, and includes the recommended Italian flour; she buys it in 55 lb. bags, enough for just 3 or 4 parties plus some homemade pasta in between!  The finely ground flour known as Tipo 00 is her secret ingredient that makes each pizza so special, along with proofing the dough, which develops that extra flavor.  Click here for more about pizza flour and here for more about building a pizza oven.

Diane rolls out each dough ball and has plenty of cornmeal-dusted paddles ready so we can start an assembly line going around the topping table, where all of the ingredients are laid out for some serious pie making.  Once they grab a paddle, guests can choose from several mild and hot sauces for the base and top it with an amazing array of fresh ingredients.  There is a rule (the only one) that you can’t dirty up the paddle with sauce, otherwise you risk being publically recognized by Jeff.

The wood-fired oven, fueled by a thick base of embers, has an optimum cooking temperature of about 920 smoking-hot degrees.  The pizzas cook in just 3 to 4 minutes and they get sliced for immediate consumption.  Thanks to Jason for humoring me and my camera when I asked him to hold the cooked pizza a certain way in the oven, or place the infra-red thermometer in the HOT oven so I could record the reading (932 degrees!!).

So, what are the secrets to a fabulous outdoor winter pizza party?  In my book, they are:

  • Great homemade dough, made with lots of love
  • All of the food prep and set-up done ahead of time
  • A fully-stoked chiminea and portable heaters ( a must in Colorado)
  • Fun and interesting guests (yes, of course David and I fall in this category)
  • A wood-fired pizza oven (I have it on my birthday list, or perhaps it’s the honey-do list)
  • Gracious hosts who love to share a good meal with interesting friends

Many thanks and hugs to Diane and Jeff for firing up their pizza oven and sharing the love!  Cheers to you both!

*Mamma Rosa’s is located in Ortezzano, outside the city of Force, Italy (Ciao, Paolo!) in the yet undiscovered and charming region of Marche

Eat well and share the love!

There’s a Chicago Dog in my Pizza!

The other night I made pizza dough in preparation for dinner.  When it came time to make the meal, one of us wanted pizza and the other wanted hot dogs instead.  David suggested hot dogs on the pizza.  I thought to myself, what? Hot dogs on a pizza?!  He continued with “how about a Chicago Dog pizza?” knowing how much I love a Chicago-style hot dog, and said “think about it, put all the toppings and the hot dog on the dough and we have a new idea for a pizza”.   Hmm, it did sound quite creative so I decided to give it a shot.  I have to say, we both were pleasantly surprised (David is quite proud of idea now).  It was really delicious, with all the flavor elements that you would find in the real thing!

Here’s how we pulled this off: Put your pizza stone in the oven and crank the temperature up to 500 degrees F, you want it nice and hot.  Pick up some store-bought pizza dough, or buy a medium ball of dough from your local pizza place/restaurant, or make your own and roll it out.  For a real Chicago-style hot dog, you must have a poppy seed roll.  We brushed the dough edge with olive oil and sprinkled some poppy seeds on.  Then it was a layer of mustard, one half stone-ground and the other half yellow.  Next, slices of cooked all-beef hot dogs, some diced onions, diced tomatoes and a topping of grated Fontina cheese.  After being cooked until golden brown and bubbly, chopped pickles, chopped sweet cherry peppers and sweet banana wax peppers finished it off.

If you don’t have a pizza peel (a flat paddle made of either wood or stainless steel; I prefer the latter) you can use the back of a clean sheet pan.  To keep the dough from sticking to the pizza peel, I found that cornmeal works best for me; they are like little edible ball bearings between the dough and the peel that help the dough slide off.  And be sure to shake the pizza peel back and forth a few times during assembly so the dough doesn’t stick to it.  No pizza stone?  Just use a sheet pan with parchment paper and you are good to go. 

Either for a weeknight or weekend meal, this pizza is a fun twist on the classic.

Eat well and share the love!

Chicago Dog Pizza
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

1 medium pizza dough
Olive oil
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
2 teaspoons stone-ground or yellow mustard
2 hot dogs, cooked and sliced into 1/8 inch pieces
½ medium onion, diced
1 tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes, diced
1 ¼ cup grated Fontina or Fontinella cheese
1 dill pickle, diced
3 sweet cherry peppers, seeded and diced
3 sweet banana wax peppers, seeded and diced
Fresh cracked pepper
Poppy seeds

Place the pizza stone in the oven and turn the temperature to 500 degrees F.  When the oven reaches temperature, roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface – about 12 inches round.  Lightly sprinkle a handful of cornmeal on the pizza peel (or the back of a clean sheet pan), making sure you have a good coating in the front and the sides.  Place the dough on the pizza peel.

Brush one inch of the outer perimeter of the dough with a light coating of olive oil.  Sprinkle the poppy seeds evenly around the edge.  Spread the mustard on the dough and then gently shake the pizza peel back and forth to keep the dough from sticking.  Lay the hot dog slices around, then the onions and tomatoes; lightly shake the peel again.  Top with the grated cheese and transfer to the pizza stone in the oven.

Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown.  Turn the pizza 180 degrees halfway through cooking.  Transfer to a cutting board and top with the pickles and peppers.  Cut into slices, add some fresh cracked pepper, a few more poppy seeds and serve while hot.

  • Cooking the hot dogs: When we buy the all-beef hot dogs at Costco, we freeze them in two-pack bundles – wrap the hot dogs in plastic wrap and store the bundles in a large bag in the freezer to make it easier for later.  They can go straight from the freezer to the toaster oven (on foil-lined pan, remove plastic wrap) and cook at 325 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes until they are hot with a nice crust.
  • You can find the sweet cherry peppers and sweet banana wax peppers in a jar, usually in the olive aisle.