April 19, 2008

Bye-bye Roasting Pan, Hello Grill

Springtime has arrived in Brooklyn

For the past 4 years, I’ve been making due with an older version of this Weber grill. Its small size has been a blessing and a curse. While easy to store, meals have been challenging when we host large gatherings. The accompanying 14.1 oz. propane canister collection was also annoying, even when they weren’t running out in the middle of a meal. But despite it all, the grill has served me well through the years. I’ve ordered a new cooking grate and heat tent so I can use it as a secondary grill for large outdoor gatherings.

My new grill was delivered on Tuesday…to my office. That elicited some fantastic banter with my fellow employees. They’ve come to expect bizarre things from me so it wasn’t altogether shocking but it is a little weird to see a grill next to a cubicle desk.

After watching my friend Ryan cook on a Coleman Roadtrip grill all last summer, I decided to buy their Roadtrip Pro SS model. The 345 sq. inch cooking surface is roughly double what I’m used to and the 20 lb. tank converter I received in the mail today is going to save me a number of sweaty trips to the hardware store over the course of the summer, not to mention start-and-stop meals.

As I fired it up for the first time to burn off any unwanted chemicals, I marveled at the grill’s efficient design. I’m most impressed with the ability to seal the lid. With both burners on high and the cover sealed shut, the easy-to-read thermometer reached well over 700 degrees in just about 15 minutes.

With the sun out and the temps in the mid-to-upper 60’s, Mary Beth and I called some friends for an impromptu Thursday night gathering. After weighing several menu options, I decided to take a page from my sister and brother-in-law’s grilling repertoire and make pizzas. We grabbed dough from our friends at nearby Pizza Plus. It was only $6 for 3 small sized balls of dough which I found remarkably cheap, especially considering the price of grain right now.

If you’ve never put pizza dough directly on a grill, the concept might be a little unnerving. If you try it, make sure your cooking surface is clean and rub the dough with olive oil. My sister uses oil that’s been sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes; I’ll probably try that the next time around. I also like to salt my crust and add some corn meal for a little grit.

Place the dough on the grill over medium-low heat and close the lid. After a few minutes, the dough will start to take form. You need to check the bottom every once in awhile to make sure you get a nice, golden brown crust. When it reaches the right consistency, flip it over. Now its time for the toppings. I spooned some Buitoni marinara sauce on the crust and topped it with chunks of fresh mozzarella, grated parmesan, mushrooms and hand-ripped basil. Close the lid, let the cheese melt and pull it off whenever the crust reaches the consistency you’re after.

For our first attempt, I rushed to get dough on the grill and didn’t spend enough time working it out to the right thickness. The result was a doughy pizza that every one agreed was decent but not great. As I was cooking the first pie, Mary took her time working out the other two pieces of dough and by our third and final attempt, we nailed both the thickness and the cooking time.

Before the pizza, we served a brie and some guacamole chips with salsa that our friends graciously brought to the party. To drink, we had sangria (2006 Vina Borgia, Brandy, OJ, McIntosh apples, navel oranges, and lemons) and a selection of Brooklyn suds – Lager and East India Pale Ale.

All in all, it was an easy-going way to welcome spring and the grilling season.

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