The blimp is back and hovering over Melanie's Kitchen's chimney in search of recipes and tips for another year of Penn State Football, fun and food... and face it folks, no school quite cooks up tailgate like us right here at Penn State!
In exactly one month, Kitchen Encounters will again host "Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursdays", where I'll post Mel's Menu, tips and recipes for each and every game. This'll give you plenty of time to to buy groceries, plan your party and get taped-up for Saturday's big game!
For those of you who are new to Kitchen Encounters, all of the recipes I posted last season as well as the ones I will be posting this year are conveniently located and can be found by clicking into Category 18: Just Penn State Tailgate!
As always: To leave a comment, ask a question or submit a request, just click on the blue title of any post in this blog, scroll to the end of it and type away!
Near the end of last year's season, a few of you (here on my Kitchen Encounters blog as well as over at Black Shoe Diaries, a sports blog for Nittany Lion fans) asked me for tips on how to successfully grill pizza. While I answered all of your questions, over the Summer I decided to take it one step further and developed a detailed recipe with lots of step-by-step photos for you. Then when Jeff, an editor over at BSD, asked if I'd kick-off their foodie tailgating posts on their blog this evening (which flattered my little 'ole blue & white heart), I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to share with everyone! So, to kick tailgate off here at KE this morning as well as over at Black Shoe Diaries tonight, and, to help all of you everywhere get your tailgatin' groove back:
~ How to: Grill & Host a Great Penn State Tailgate Pizza Party ~
Everyone loves pizza, everyone loves pizza parties and everyone loves personal-sized pizza they can customize with their favorite toppings. That being said, a pizza tailgate party on a glorious Fall day at Beaver Stadium has got to be the #1 place everyone would just love to be! With a little pre-prep and planning, I'm here to tell you and show you how this can and will be one of your bestest, funnest, easiest tailgates ever!
First your going to need dough. My family loves my homemade pizza crust and so have all of the students I have taught to make it in my cooking classes. So, for starters, I decided to put it to the test and see how it would fare on the grill... and it worked fantastic. I make it in the food processor in less than 5 minutes. Yes, I said less than 5 minutes. To read my recipe for ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part II: Our Favorite Crust ~, click into Categories 5 or 12.
That being said: Feel free to use your own recipe or your favorite store-bought dough.
~ Step 1. Depending on how much dough you have, line one or two 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment paper and spray the paper with no-stick spray. Once your dough is mixed and has risen, using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide it into 3-ounce portions and roll it into balls. My dough recipe yields 18 personal-sized pizza crusts and I plan on 2 crusts per person. Using your fingertips, pat, press and push each ball of dough to form a crust about 6" round.
~ Step 2. Line one more baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray. As you form the crusts, place/layer them on the pan, four to a layer, interleaving the crusts with parchment paper that has been sprayed with no-stick spray on BOTH SIDES, meaning: all of the parchment paper touching the crusts must be sprayed!
Note: At this point, the pan of crusts can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours or overnight. They can be taken up to the stadium in a cooler as is, or they can be precooked as follows:
~ Step 3. Uncooked crusts "shrink up". Give each a second brief pat and press, stretching it to between 6"-7" round, just prior to grilling.
~ Step 4. Preheat your grill to high. Place desired number of crusts on the grill and cook until golden brown grill marks appear on the first side. Using a long-handled grilling spatula, flip crust over and grill again, until golden brown grill marks appear on the second side. This should take just 1-2 minutes per side, but depending upon just how hot your grill is or gets, could take as long as 3 minutes per side.
Note: Grilled and completely cooled crusts can be prepared 1-2 days in advance of topping, cooking and eating pizzas. Cover them with plastic wrap or store them in a large food storage bag. Grilled and completely cooled crusts can also be frozen. How cool is that!
To cook pizzas on the grill: Preheat grill to high. Top pizzas and place 1-2 of them on a disposable aluminum broiler pan, the kind with the corrugated bottom. Place on grill, close the lid and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 3-5 minutes.
Note: Placing the crusts on this type of pan diffuses the heat really well, which insures your crust won't burn in the time necessary to melt the cheese. It also prevents flareups caused by cheese and/or sauce dripping down into the flame. It's also great if you're cooking a lot of pizzas all at the same time or at approximately the same time... you can thank me later!
Now that we've grilled the crusts and know how to cook the pizzas, I'd like to share some of my favorite ideas for topping them with you. All of the following toppings can be prepped a day or two in advance, placed in food storage containers (some in zip-top bags), refrigerated and then transported to the stadium in your cooler on game day. Easy enough so far?
#1. Sauces: I like to give my family and guests three sauces to choose from. My favorites are Parmesan-Alfredo, basil-pesto and tomato-basil, which just happen to be the three colors in the Italian flag!
Note: While I make my sauces from scratch, feel free to use your favorite bottled brands. You can read my recipe for ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part I: Our Favorite Sauce ~ by clicking into Categories 8, 12, or 22. I'll be posting the others in the near future!
#2. Fresh vegetables. Feel free to use any fresh vegetables that you like, just remember to slice them very thin and/or chop them into bite sized pieces. My four favorites are blanched, fresh broccoli florets, shaved Vidalia or sweet onion, small, sliced Campari tomatoes and white button mushroom caps. Occasionally I like to take the time to roast and slice some red and/or green peppers too!
#4. Proteins. In warm/hot weather, I love the taste of freshly grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs (which have been cut into thin strips) and small shrimp (which were steamed using some fresh lemon juice and bay leaves). In cool/cold weather, I head towards sauteed sausage and pepperoni!
As for dried herbs, I keep them simple, relying upon my highly-flavored sauces to spice my pizzas up. A sprinkling of garlic powder, an herb blend and some red pepper is all I require. Once the pizzas are off the grill: drizzle with EVOO, slice and eat!
Special Equipment List: 2-3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; 5-6, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" sheets parchment paper; no-stick cooking spray; kitchen scale; plastic wrap (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; egg slicer; long-handled grilling spatula; 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pans w/corrugated bottoms; cutting board; chef's knife or pizza cutter
Cook's Note: What happens if you have grilled pizza crusts leftover or want to take one or two out of the freezer and don't want to heat up your grill? Top and bake them in a 375-400 degree oven for 5-8 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. To insure the crust gets as crispy as it does on the grill, place them on a rack in a baking pan!
Extra Cook's Note: The topping combinations pictured in the three pizzas today are my favorites: basil-pesto w/olives, artichokes, shrimp and mozzarella; Parmesan-Alfredo w/broccoli, tomato, chicken, mozzarella and basil, and; tomato-basil w/mushrooms, onions, mozzarella and basil. Before going onto the grill, they were all sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Italian seasoning blend and red pepper flakes. Once off the grill, they were drizzled with EVOO!
"WE ARE... PENN STATE!!!"
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)