Pizza at a tailgate, why not?

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By Joe Drozda and Bob Bley

Using the most recent estimates from the American Community Survey and Dunn and Bradstreet, we’ve discovered the most popular food in every state. The food type with the highest density per 100,000 people is considered the most popular. Pizza is the fan-favorite in all states that our column is published (Oklahoma to Ohio). California and a couple other states that border Mexico are the only exceptions to this national trend.

So why can’t we make pizza at our tailgate parties? The answer is that we CAN make pizza, and we’ll show you here an easy way to have it taste better than you can buy and far better than a reheated frozen variety or a pie with store-bought, pre-made crust.  Besides a grill with a lid, the only equipment you’ll need is a pizza stone (or quarry tile that will fit onto your grill) on which to cook the pizza, and a peel (large, flat paddle to transfer the pie to and from the stone).

Tailgate Pizza

Ingredients:

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 package dry active yeast

½ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 ¾ lbs. whole milk (not skimmed) mozzarella cheese

1 jar favorite pizza sauce

½ onion chopped

1 green pepper chopped

1 can ripe olives sliced in half

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage ground and well browned

Ground Oregano and Basil to spice

Preparation: before – Proof the yeast in 1 cup warm water. In a large mixing bowl mix the flour, salt and sugar; then add the yeast water mixture and the oil. With your hands, knead flour and liquid mixture into springy dough. Knead the dough at least 5 minutes and as much as 15 if you have the strength. Then place a bit of oil in the mixing bowl make the dough into a ball. Cover bowl with clear wrap and refrigerate 24-48 hours.

Game day morning – Take the dough out and let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature.Then cut the ball into four pieces and roll each into a small ball and let them sit under a clean dish towel while you prep things for your trip to the game. Lastly, pack the dough balls with a 1-inch separation into a container for your trip to the game.

At the Tailgate – Heat your grill at least 30 minutes until the temperature of the stone is 450-500 degrees. Flour a cutting board and place a dough ball on it. Spread the dough out into a circle. You can use a rolling pin or air-toss, if you want. Place some corn meal on the peel and then the dough circle on top. Spread evenly 2 tablespoons of sauce on the dough and then slices of your cheese to cover the dough. Add a little of the sausage and a small amount of the other toppings of your choice. You’ll add more as the pie is cooking on the stone. Make sure the dough slides on the corn meal so it is easy to transfer to the stone for cooking.

Slide the dough onto the stone and close the lid to keep the heat in.  After 1  minute, quickly add more sausage and other toppings. Also, place dollops of sauce in key areas of your pie. It’s safer to add more toppings when the pie crust is firming up on the stone. The pie will be ready to remove to the cutting board in 5 to 10 minutes. Just check the crust before removing it. Serves 4 to 6 people.

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