I have, for some time now, half-joked to Amanda that if the volume is loud enough on my car radio, I can sound exactly like [insert name of singer here]. Reba McEntire. Lea Michele. Mariah Carey. Idina Menzel. Oh yeah. That high F in “Defying Gravity”? If the radio’s loud enough, I can hit it. Ever. Single. Time.
When I was in high school, my friend Liz and I went through a pretty big Sister Act 2 phase. We watched it all the time. And while chatting on the phone one day, I attempted the radio volume trick without the help of the radio. I attempted to hit the high note in “Oh Happy Day.”
I wasn’t trying hard or anything. I mean, I’m not crazy. I actually can’t hit a high F.
Unless I’m in my car.
With the music really loud.
Point being, I went for it, and it was a mess, and we joked and laughed about it for years. I was understandably upset that she did not ask me to perform “Oh Happy Day” at her wedding, but since she probably couldn’t have gotten me a gospel choir anyway, it was really a lost cause from the beginning.
I hadn’t thought about that in awhile, until I happened on this the other day.
Oh yeah. The goat note. I’ve watched it at least a dozen times, and it still just tickles me.
But this feeling that I can do something that’s actually outside of my ability is one I often suffer from. When I watch So You Think You Can Dance, there’s a part of my brain that really believes I can extend my leg up over my head, and I reeeeeeeallly want to try. But I know I can’t. I will end up disappointed and injured. I cannot jeté, and that is my cross to bear.
And y’all. That’s how I felt about homemade pizza too. I’ve got a pizza stone. I’ve tried things. I’ve done the makeshift pizza peel off the back of a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal. I’ve tried different dough recipes. I’ve tried under-saucing. I’ve tried under-cheesing. And still, whenever I made pizza in my oven, on that stupid pizza stone, I was met with disappointment. The dough of that disappointment was still raw in the middle. The bottom of that disappointment would be disproportionately crispy to the rest of the soggy, stupid pizza.
I had given up. And then, oh happy day, I discovered grilled pizza.
The grill allows a forgiving workspace that is level to our bodies, no longer requiring us to hunch over and extend our bodies (or our arms) into a hot oven. There’s no need to slide the pizza onto an already hot stone; you just flip that dough on the grill, letting the shape fall as it will.
A few things I learned for successful grilled pizza:
- Let the dough sit out for at least half an hour before you stretch it. This allows the gluten to relax (or something scientific like that) and makes it so you can stretch out the dough without it shrinking back.
- Organize your stuff. Get all your toppings ready to go because once the pizza dough is on the grill, you’ve only got a few minutes before it’s time to add toppings.
- Sauce is not necessary. Yes, I know. I said it. Sauce is great – I mean, who on God’s green earth doesn’t love sauce? But sauce is not essential. I used a brushing of olive oil, and it worked beautifully.
- Dress up your crust! Why not? Before I put my dressed up pizza back on the grill, I brushed the crust part with olive oil, added a little salt, and it was a fun ending to each slice of pizza.
Essentially, here’s the deal: preheat your grill to medium or medium-high heat. If any toppings need pre-cooking (for instance, I grilled some zucchini first), go ahead and do that once it’s hot. Pat out and stretch your pizza dough (I used pre-made dough from Whole Foods) to the desired size(s). Assemble your area with your toppings. Pour a glass of wine, if you are so inclined.
When you’re ready, spray the grate with cooking spray, and then pick up your dough using two hands and flip it from the tray/cutting board/plate/cookie sheet onto the grill. Imagine you’re turning over a place mat; that’s the motion. Don’t worry if your dough isn’t a perfect circle. This is homemade.
Close the grill, let it cook a few minutes (taking care not to burn it); 3-5 minutes should do the trick. You’re looking for light golden grill marks. When you see those, use a pair of tongs and flip the dough over. Allow to cook 3-5 more minutes, till you get grill marks.
At this point, remove the pizza to a tray and dress that sucker up like it’s heading to church. I made two pizzas: one with grilled zucchini, torn basil, mozzarella, goat cheese, minced garlic, and a sprinkle of pecorino; the other with sliced heirloom tomato, goat cheese, torn basil, mozzarella, garlic, and pecorino. I found two smaller pizzas easier to work with, and it can be a good way to make a grown-up pizza and a kid pizza, in case you have children with strong pizza opinions.
Once the pizzas are dressed, open the grill, use your tongs, and slide the pizzas onto the rack. You’ll want to bake 5-7 minutes, most likely. You’re looking for melty toppings and golden crust without burning the bottom.
When the pizzas are done, remove from the grill, let sit for a few minutes before slicing, and then cut those things up and enjoy.
Honestly, I didn’t have high hopes. I thought it would be like singing “Oh Happy Day.” I thought it would be the goat note of pizza. But it wasn’t. It was easy and delicious and fun and satisfying. The leftovers were great, too, and I was in no way disappointed. Quite the opposite, actually.