We absolutely love living in Rhode Island. While the state is small, it offers incredible variety. The part of the state we live in, western Rhode Island, is filled with winding rural roads, lovely old houses, and kind, generous neighbors. While Rhode Island's great beaches often get a lot of attention, the wide open spaces and preserved land and scenery of western RI is (in our opinion) one of the most undervalued parts of this state. One of the greatest things about living in such a small state is that, from here, it's only a 25 minute ride into downtown Providence. In addition to being where I work while Aden work on the farm, Providence has a ton to offer. Being home to RISD, Brown and Johnson & Whales, there's great culture and inspiring food no matter where you turn.
One thing Providence has become famous for is its grilled pizza. The city was recently ranked second by Travel + Leisure for best pizza cities in the country. The origins of the grilled pizza are somewhat disputed, as is the best place in the city to get some. Al Forno's grilled pizza is famous, but Bob & Timmy's was the grilled pizza I was raised on. Also, I can't write about pizza without mentioning the new arrival, Providence Coal Fired Pizza, which has ruined more carb-free diets for me than I care to admit (and, full disclosure, my family owns it).
Grilled pizza is incredible. The high heat of the grill, mixed with generous oil on the dough, leaves the pizza crust slightly charred, crispy, and with an almost fried-dough like flavor. A few things are key when making a grilled pizza. First, you need to be prepared. Your dough can burn quickly if you aren't paying attention. Second, you need a large grill. Lastly, you need to keep your ingredients simple. A few fresh, tasty ingredients will need to be placed on the pizza quickly so that everything can heat fast enough before the crust starts to burn underneath. Above all, do not be intimidated by this. The dough recipe below will yield quite a few pizzas, so feel free to mess up a few times and just start over. Once you perfect the technique you'll be making these for the rest of your life, it's simply too irresistible not to!
Recipe: Grilled Pizza
- 2 C cold water
- 6 C bread flour
- 1 T active dry yeast
- 1 T salt
- 1 T sugar
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 T sugar
- Chopped basil
- Sale & Pepper to taste
- Shredded mozzarella or fontina
- You will want to get started on your dough early, either the night before or early in the morning at the latest. In a mixing bowl, add the yeast, salt, olive oil and sugar to the cool water until the yeast re-hydrates and dissolves.
- Turn the mixer on and gradually add the flour, two cups at a time. You may need slightly less than all six cups, but the goal is to incorporate as much of the flour as possible while still having a working dough. A dough without enough flour will be very difficult to handle on the grill, but you still want something stiff and only slightly wet. If it gets too tough, add more water, and let the dough rest for a few minutes before continuing to mix.
- Allow the dough to rise, covered in your refrigerator. Placing it in large plastic grocery bags that have been doubled up (if you have clean ones) is generally most convenient.
- Make the pizza sauce by chopping the garlic and sauteing it in olive oil until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the tomatoes, chopped basil, salt, pepper and sugar, stir, and allow it to sit, covered, over low heat, for as long as possible (if you're in a rush you can cook it over high heat until the tomatoes start to break apart). We prefer a thick sauce, with chunks of diced tomato, but you can smooth it out if you'd like by mashing the tomatoes once they're cooked.
- Take the dough out about an hour before lighting your grill.
- When lighting the grill, you want it to get as hot as possible, but with the coals almost entirely to one side, so that you will have enough room to cook the pizza over both direct and indirect heat.
- Get all of your toppings ready, together with the sauce, and place them near the grill. Also, bring a generous amount of olive oil with an oil brush, and it keep it nearby. You will need something to flip the pizza (we use tongs), as well as something to push the pizza on to when its done (we use one of our cutting boards). Make sure all of this is ready beforehand!
- Divide the dough (the dough recipe will yield about six pizzas) by pulling off a small amount about the size of your fist. As you get better at making the pizzas you can move up to larger sizes, but practice with small pizzas first, keeping in mind the size of your grill.
- Roll the dough out to a thin, uniform consistency, using plenty of flour. It doesn't need to be round, and it should be thick enough for you to be able to quickly lift it without the dough tearing.
- You may find it helpful to keep the dough on a piece of parchment paper. Generous oil one side of the pizza dough.
- Place the oiled side of the dough down on the grill directly over the coals. If using parchment paper, you can slowly flip the dough onto the grill by using a cutting board and gradually sliding the dough forward. Then, once the pizza is completely on the grill, simply peel the parchment paper off the top of the dough.
- While the pizza is cooking, generously oil the top of the dough. It should cook quickly, in about a minute or so. You will see the entire crust start to bubble and will be able to lift it easily with your tongs. Move the dough around as needed to ensure that the entire area is cooked (though if your grill is large enough and the coals dispersed enough, you shouldn't have to move it at all).
- Using your tongs, check to ensure that you can lift the whole pizza off the grates by running them along the dough's edges. If it lifts, flip the dough onto the uncooked oiled side and allow it to cook for thirty seconds (if it doesn't flip, you didn't use enough oil). Once you've completed this flip, congratulations! the hardest part of making a grilled pizza is over.
- Do not revel in your cooking prowess for too long. Quickly move the crust off of direct heat and start adding your toppings. Your cheese will melt a lot faster by putting it down first. Add the sauce and anything else you may be using on top of that. Close the cover and allow it to cook over indirect heat for about 7 minutes. Using your tongs, rotate it frequently, so that every side of the crust gets to cook closest to the hot coals (but, again, not over them).
- Once everything is melted and bubbly, slide the pizza off the grill, slice it and enjoy!
Number of servings (yield): 4