Sunday, September 23, 2012

Make your own pizza or pizza party night


We’ve been trying something new when we invite friends over by letting each person make their own pizza.  Everyone gets to eat what they like; it’s fun and offers a lot of variety.  Simply prep the ingredients you know your friends will like before they arrive.  Once your guests walk through the door you’re ready to go.
The ingredients that we’ve used so far include:
Cheeses:
Parmigiano-Reggiano
Mozzarella
Cheddar
Asiago
Boursin
Feta
Vegetables:
Onion fresh and sautéed
Bell Pepper
Jalapeno
Banana Pepper
Mushrooms
Cayenne
Tomato
Minced Garlic
Olives – several types have been tried, just be sure to remove the pits!
Meat:
Pepperoni
Bacon
Ham
Ground Beef
Ground Sausage
Prosciutto
Sauces:
Pizza Sauce
Tomato Sauce
Barbeque – we’ve tried a few, from hickory smoked to spicy
Mustard – we’ve also tried several styles here also
Herbs (we’ve experimented with fresh and dry):
Basil
Oregano
Thyme
Parsley
Sage
Dessert Ingredients:
Fig preserves
Blackberry Pinot Noir jam
Peanut Butter
Dark Chocolate
Marshmallow
Chocolate Sauce
We use a lot of the same ingredients but try to add in some new ingredients every time that we haven’t attempted yet.  Add your own favorite ingredient and don’t forget to keep the tastes of your guests in mind as well.  Be adventuresome though!  And always save room for a dessert pizza, even if you make one that the whole party shares.
The Crust
The easiest method is to use something like Pillsbury Thin Crust Pizza Dough.  Although you can certainly make your own dough or use your favorite (again keep the tastes of your guests in mind).
Heat the oven at 400° F with a large cooking stone on the center rack.  If the surface of the stone requires it be sure to spray it with cooking spray prior to each batch of pizza.
Pillsbury Thin Crust Pizza Dough
I take the Pillsbury crust and lay it out on a large clean flat surface (I have a large cutting board that’s perfect for this).  One side tends to be a little thicker so I carefully lift and pull to even it out a little.  It can be uneven, it adds to the variety homemade look of each pizza.  Using your pizza cutter, slice the dough into quarters.
Quarter the pizza dough
Pre-bake the pizza dough quarters in the 400° F oven for about 5 -6 minutes.  Until they begin to brown slightly.  Pull them out and set them aside.  They can be easily stacked.  For a little nicer look you can brush them lightly with butter.  This can be done prior to your guests arriving.
Pre-baked pizza dough quarters
The Ingredients
Prep each ingredient so they are ready for use when the guests arrive.  Shred or grate the cheese.  Cook the beef and sausage.  Sauté the onions.  Fry the bacon and crumble it.  Pit the olives.  Be sure to have everything prepped so all you and your guests do is top your pizzas.  Arrange ingredients in individual containers with spoons/utensils to make it easy to access each item without getting fingers involved.
The Pizza
Let your guests grab a plate and start by selecting one of the pre-cooked pizza dough quarters.  Add the type preferred sauce of choice (encourage guests to use sauce sparingly – it’s the one ingredient that you really don’t need to overuse).  Now each person can top the pizza with their favorite ingredients and layer them as they wish.
Some like cheese on the bottom and top.  Others prefer pepperoni buried and some place it on top.  However they want to do it is fine.
As they are completed place in the oven on the 400° F oven on the cooking stone for about 6 - 7 minutes (which is why all ingredients that need to be cooked should be thoroughly cooked a head of time).  I can fit two of the dough quarters on the stove at a time.  So, yes, this means that not everyone is eating at the same time.  That’s fine.  Allow the atmosphere to be fun – your guests will love watching what everyone else does on their own personal pizza as well.
Be sure to have a large spatula to support the pizza from underneath when loading them in the oven and removing them.  I use a wooden spatula.  The last thing you want is to drop someone’s hard work on the floor!
Just in case
It’s a good idea to have a few items scattered around for the guests to nibble on prior to their pizza coming out of the oven.  Once the aromas are circulating everyone is gonna be hungry.
Also, I plan for each guest to have two quarters.  Some may have more, others will have less.  You will probably have some left over.  They can be used within the next couple of days without any issues.
Dessert
Always plan to make a dessert pizza even if everyone feels stuffed to the gills.  It’s part of the experience and your guests will go away remembering their own pizza but also the really cool dessert you created for them.
Blackberry Pinot Noir Jam pizza
I hope you have as much fun on your Make your own pizza night as we do.  I usually eat too much but I don’t remember ever regretting it.

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