Grilled Pizza

When you live in a 1950’s ranch, with 8′ ceilings, you’re always looking for ways to cook without firing up the oven and heating up the kitchen. We’ve had this really nice gas grill for a couple of years and all we ever do is cook steaks, burgers and chicken on it, so lately we’ve been reading up on things we could make on the grill. Tonight we decided to try a grilled pizza!

Not knowing what to expect, we thought this would be a pain in the ^&*!! but it was actually quite easy and very tasty. It reminded me of an artisan pizza from a pricey restaurant, perhaps because of the toppings we used, but the crust turned out thin and slightly crisp, like a pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven.

I can gladly offer a crust recipe to you, but all I did was pick up a powdered pizza crust mix from Walmart (it was even their brand) and followed the directions, which were basically “add water and stir”. Once you’ve got the dough together you will need to shape it. Start by flouring or lightly dusting with corn meal, a cutting board (better yet if you have a cookie sheet without sides, that’s ideal, because you can use it to transfer to and from the grill).

Once you’ve shaped your dough (it doesn’t have to be totally round as mine wasn’t), put it on a lightly floured (or corn meal dusted) sheet pan for grilling.

Make sure the grill is clean and spray it with cooking spray, then turn it on wide open. Once the grill is hot (when you can’t hold your hand over it for more than 2 seconds), slide the dough off the cookie sheet onto the grill and close the lid. Cook for 2 minutes.

 

 

 

 

After 2 minutes, open the grill and check underneath the dough to see if it is getting browned. If it is on one side, but not another, use a spatula or tongs to rotate the dough 90 degrees and cook for another minute. If it is not beginning to brown, cover the grill and continue to cook a minute at a time until the bottom has begun to brown. It should only take a couple minutes if you have a hot grill. The top of the pizza dough will start bubbling up with air pockets.

 

 

 

 

Once the pizza dough has browned lightly on one side, use your cookie sheet or pizza peel to remove it from the grill. Use a spatula to flip the dough over so that the grilled side is now up. Keep the grill covered so it retains its heat for the next step.

 

 

 

 

Transfer your pizza back onto the cookie sheet or cutting board. Now add your toppings. We used pesto sauce from a jar, some diced chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and some fresh, un-stretched Mozzarella cheese (purchased in a ball), but you can use tomato sauce, standard toppings, grilled vegetables, whatever you would like. Just be careful not to use too much sauce (no more than 1 ladle full) or your dough will get soggy.

Slide the topped pizza back onto the grill. If you are using a gas grill, reduce the heat. If working with a charcoal grill, close the vents on the cover almost all the way. Close the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly. Pull off the grate with a spatula onto a cutting board or other flat surface and let rest for a couple minutes before cutting into slices.

This was our finished pizza!

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Fancy Chicken Salad

I grew up eating chicken salad. Not “Fancy” chicken salad, just good old chicken salad made with chicken, celery, egg, dill pickles and mayo and to this day, that’s the way I prefer mine. Over the years, I’ve made different versions of chicken salad for my customers and all have been a hit, but nothing like the response I get from this version of fruity chicken salad that I began calling “Fancy” chicken salad on our menu at work.

I owned a catering business in Birmingham and this was a most requested recipe. At the Birmingham News, I’d make Fancy Chicken Salad, usually at least 20 pounds, and be sold out within 45 minutes of opening our doors for lunch. Customers would order it by the pound to pick up on Fridays and take home for the weekend. They liked the recipe so much, it was published in The News’ food section once. After leaving The News, I’ve worked in several corporate accounts (that’s what I am, a corporate chef) and at every account, customers line up for this recipe. I can never make enough; it sells out long before lunch ends. Every time my company moves me to a new account, the customers at the old one email talking about “missing my chicken salad”. So I’m posted this recipe for all my faithful customers, friends and readers. Like every recipe I prepare at work, this one is easy. Once you’ve chopped up the ingredients, that’s it. There is no “special ingredient”, nothing out of the ordinary that I do. The only 4 things I can say that make my recipe different from other’s chicken salad are these:

  1. Never put the chicken in a food processor, instead, tear it with your hands. We aren’t making cat food so it should resemble something from a can, which leads to the second note.
  2. Don’t use canned chicken. Take the time to boil some chicken. If you take a shortcut, it won’t taste the same. As for the chicken I use, any cut. But at work, because of what’s in inventory, it’s 95% of the time boneless, skinless breasts.
  3. If you’ve had my chicken salad before and you want yours to taste the same, use KRAFT mayonnaise. I’m not knocking Duke’s, or whatever you like, and if you’ve never had mine personally, use whatever you like, but there is a difference in mayo. I’ve made mine at work and home with KRAFT because I grew up eating KRAFT. The few times I’ve made it with Hellman’s, in my opinion, it wasn’t as good, and I don’t normally buy Duke’s because I can’t afford to pay $5 for a jar of mayo when I can get KRAFT for $2.50
  4. NEVER under any circumstances, load the chicken salad with mayo. You want just enough to hold it together. How much is that? You’ll just have to see. I don’t put a measurement because it’s hard to say. It depends on the chicken, the size pieces your chicken is, the size you cut up the ingredients, etc. You can always add more mayo but you can’t take it out. That’s a good rule of thumb for any cooking!

So now that I’ve told you my “secrets”, here’s the recipe for Fancy Chicken Salad:

  • Cooked, pulled apart chicken (about 4 cups total)
  • 1 Red Delicious Apple & 1 Granny Smith Apple
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped (I prefer to use the tops also, so don’t discard those. They have the celery flavor and the leaves add color to the chicken salad)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried, sweetened cranberries (I usually just use a whole bag from Oceanspray and don’t even measure)
  • Mayo (amount needed will depend, but will be at least 1 cup)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans or candied walnuts (optional)

That’s it! Cook chicken and shred/dice in a large bowl. Cut apples into a small dice (leaving skins on) and add to the chicken. Add the celery and dried cranberries. Mix in mayo, just enough to hold all ingredients together. You don’t want it “swimming in mayo”. Toss in some nuts if you like (I do sometimes, don’t others. Depends on my mood and who I’m serving. A lot of people have nut allergies). Season with salt and pepper (this too is up to you and your taste buds.. add some, taste it, add more if you think it needs it).

It’s great to eat on top of a green salad, made into a sandwich or wrap, or splurge and enjoy it on a buttery croissant!

Asian Cabbage Salad

It’s official.. I’m 40 and fat! In an attempt to lose some weight, I’ve been trying to eat healthier food. We’ve been buying a lot of fish and chicken in place of red meat and pork, and we’re watching our fiber intake. Lower fat and higher fiber seem to be the new trend in weight loss, along with exercise.

Tonight we’re having some grilled tuna fillets that are marinating in an Asian-inspired sauce right now. To go with our fish, I whipped up this refreshing Asian style salad. It’s flavorful and high in fiber, but it does have some fat because of the peanut butter. Still, it’s a healthy alternative to a high fat side dish and it’s delicious… and simple. Simplicity is my main requirement when I find or create a recipe, because now that I spend my whole day in a kitchen at work, I like to get out of the kitchen as quickly as possible in the evenings. Give this one a try and I think you’ll be pleased with the results!

 

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp each salt, garlic powder and ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 6 cups shredded cabbage with carrot (coleslaw) mix OR 4 cups coleslaw mix and 2 cups broccoli slaw mix (which is how I made it)
  • 1 cup fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely shredded, peeled jicama
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • fresh cilantro

In a large mixing bowl, prepare the dressing by mixing together everything from the peanut butter to the water. Toss in the slaw mix and fold well to combine. Add peas, jicama and green onions. Toss and cover. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours. Garnish with toasted almonds and cilantro.

Makes 6-8 servings

Cajun Seafood Gumbo

Here in Bama we’re gearing up for the game of the year.. the undefeated Crimson Tide plays the undefeated LSU Tigers this Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. This is the game that should decide who plays for the National Championship, so I’m going all out and making a championship recipe for tailgating on the quad.

Seafood gumbo takes a little time to prepare (and a lot of money to buy the ingredients). Gumbo can be made with seafood, chicken and sausage, sausage and seafood, etc.. it’s up to you and your taste. All you need to do is vary the recipe. If you love shrimp but hate oysters, leave them out. Try substituting the oysters with some diced up fish fillets, add some crawfish tails, etc. The trick to a flavorful gumbo is the roux. Roux is simply equal parts fat (oil, butter, etc) and flour cooked to varying stages based on color. For a simple biscuit gravy, you make a light roux. For a rich gumbo, you want a DARK roux, which is achieved by cooking down, stirring constantly, until the roux achieves the color you desire.

All Cajun cooking starts with a “trinity”. A trinity is a mixture of onions, bell peppers and celery and it is the basis for every recipe from the swamps.

To make a large pot of seafood gumbo:

  •  2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 3 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 3 bell peppers, finely diced
  • 1 bunch of celery, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 32oz bottle of clam juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch of green onions (scallions) chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 pint oysters, shucked (do not drain)
  • 1 pint crab meat (picked for shells)
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, over medium heat, heat the oil until hot. Add the flour, whisking constantly. Continue to cook and the roux will turn from a blonde roux, to sand, to light brown, to caramel color. Once it reaches caramel color, turn down the heat and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the roux is a dark brown color. The darker the color, the more flavorful the gumbo.
Increase the heat back to medium and add the garlic, onions, celery and bell peppers to the roux. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes.
Add the oregano, Old Bay, bay leaves, thyme and cayenne. Mix well, then add the clam juice, water, green onions and parsley. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp, crab meat, oysters and their liquor (the juice in the pint with the oysters), then add the salt, pepper and some Tabasco sauce. Reduce the heat to as low as your cooktop will go and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring frequently to prevent the flour from burning.
Remove from the heat and serve over cooked white rice.
Let Les Miles dine on Bentgrass while you enjoy this delicious dish!

Appalachian Burgoo

It’s that time of year again, for the annual traditional Alabama vs. Tennessee game, so in honor of the game, our tailgating recipe this week is for Appalachian Burgoo. It will be especially nice since the forecast calls for a cool day, perfect to watch Bama whip some Tennessee butt.

Traditional burgoo is a beggar’s stew made from whatever meat could be scavenged. Typically in the Tennessee mountains, that would be squirrel or opossum, but since I don’t have time to trap an opossum or shoot some squirrels, mine is made with a combination of beef and pork. This is a big recipe and feeds plenty of Bama fans, or a small army!

  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3# pork country ribs cut into 3″ cubes
  • 2-3# beef chuck roast, cubed
  • 3 chicken thighs or legs, your choice
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 russet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 bag frozen lima beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • Tabasco sauce as needed to taste

Heat vegetable oil on medium-high heat in a large soup pot (at least 8 quart size). Salt the meats well on all sides. When the oil is shimmering hot, working in batches brown all the meats. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam and not brown well. Do not move the meat while browning a side. Let the meat pieces get well seared. Remove the browned meats to a bowl.

Add the onions, carrots, celery and green pepper to the pot and brown them. If necessary, add a little more oil to the pot. After a few minutes of cooking, sprinkle salt over the vegetables. When the vegetables are well browned, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until fragrant. Add back the meats, and the chicken and beef broths and the tomatoes, stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours.

Uncover and remove the meat pieces. Strip the chicken off the bone and discard skin if you want. Break the larger pieces of meat into smaller, more manageable pieces. The reason you did not do this at first is because the meats stay juicier when they cook in larger pieces. Return all the meat pieces to the pot and bring it up to a strong simmer.

Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks about the same size as the meat pieces (if using new potatoes, you can skip the peeling, but russets you’ll want to peel). Add them to the stew and cook them until they are done, about 45 minutes. When the potatoes are done, add the Worcestershire sauce, mix well and taste for salt. Add more Worcestershire sauce to taste if needed. Add the corn and lima beans. Mix well and cook for at least 10 minutes, or longer if you’d like. Here is the point where you decide whether you want a burgoo that’s been hammered into a thick mass or a stew with bright colors in it. It’s your call.

To serve, taste one more time for salt, and add either Worcestershire or salt if you want. Serve with crusty bread or cornbread and a bottle of hot sauce on the side.

Hoppin’ John Salad

I came up with this recipe a few years back to use up some leftover black-eyed peas and it was a hit with my customers. They always got excited to see Hoppin’ John salad on my menu. Technically, it’s not really a true “hoppin’ John” because I don’t use rice, but you could toss in some wild rice and it would only add to the flavor. In the South, this salad is similar to what some people call “Redneck Caviar”. Like any good marinated salad, it can be made just prior to serving, but it’s even tastier if made a day or two ahead. The longer it “marinates” in the frig, the better it tastes.

For 4 to 6 servings:

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen black-eyed peas
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (the tomatoes, not the pint)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Put the frozen peas, bay leaf and salt in a pot. Cover peas with water and cook at a slow boil for 45 minutes, or until peas are tender. Drain, rinse with cold water and place peas in a large salad/mixing bowl.
Add all remaining ingredients to the chilled peas, using salt and cracked pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Alligator Piquant

In honor of Bama’s game in the swamp tonight with the Florida Gators, here’s a recipe for Alligator Piquant. If you’ve never cooked Alligator, it does taste a lot like chicken. Alligator tail meat is available at finer grocery stores but it’s on the expensive side. Piquant sauce is a Cajun staple and in Louisiana they cook any variety of meats (rabbit, chicken, duck) and serve with a piquant sauce, so if you’re not up on trying alligator, try with one of the other meats.

  • 4# alligator tail meat (available at Publix if you’re a city dweller) or 4 pounds chicken, rabbit or duck, chopped
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 head celery, chopped
  • 3 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 cups water
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  • 1# Andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 1/2 bunches green onions, sliced including tops
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
In a large, heavy pot (preferably a cast iron pot), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until roux is the color of chocolate (can take up to 20 minutes to achieve this nice dark nutty smelling roux). Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Add the gator (or other meat) water, tomato sauce, Ro-Tel tomatoes, andouille sausage, cayenne pepper, salt and paprika. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and resembles a stew, making sure the meat is done. Add the 2 sticks of butter to the “stew” and cook for another 10 minutes.
Serve over steamed white rice.

Vietnamese Chicken

When you work in the foodservice industry, food cost is a big factor in determining weekly menus. Fine dining restaurants worry about food cost, but not nearly as much as corporate cafes like mine, where I’m serving food for a set price each day that I normally can’t change. So I’m always looking for ways to cook “lower cost” items… that’s how I came up with this recipe. At work, I make this recipe using chicken thighs, which are about the cheapest part of the chicken you can buy (not including organ meat, which I don’t do.. I’m no Hannibal Lector!!), but this marinade is excellent on any piece of chicken. Breasts, strips and for game day tailgating, buffalo wings!! You can get away with a short time marinade for a few hours, but the longer you marinate the meat the better the flavor and the more tender and juicy the meat becomes. The sodium in the soy sauce “brines” the meat and anyone that’s cooked a big Thanksgiving turkey can tell you that brining is the way to ensure a juicy bird each and every time! So give this one a try sometime.. either for your next game day party, or simply for a low cost dinner at home with the family.

  • 4-6 chicken thighs, 4 breasts or 3 boneless chicken breasts cut into strips, or a bag of fresh/frozen buffalo wings (raw)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Zest from 1 orange, minced
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1 large ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce**
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp black or white sesame seeds

** I only buy low-sodium soy sauce and for this recipe I recommend you pick up a bottle. Because soy sauce is loaded with sodium, marinating overnight in regular soy sauce makes the finished chicken too salty. It’s like soaking a steak in Dale’s!

Chop lower stem from cilantro and discard. Place cilantro tops, garlic cloves and fresh ginger in the bowl of a food processor and process to a fine blend. In a large storage container or large ziplock storage bag, add the processed ingredients, orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Add the chicken to the marinade. Cover or seal and marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator, turning every so often to ensure a good coating of marinade on the chicken. The longer it marinates, the more tender the chicken will become.

Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and arrange the thighs on a roasting pan or cookie sheet. Bake at 400F for an hour. If using bone-in breasts, cook on a hot grill until internal temperature reaches 165F, or if using boneless strips, stir-fry with Oriental vegetables and serve over hot steamed rice. Your cooking time with vary depending on the cut of chicken you are using, so it’s best to spend a few bucks at Walmart on a digital food probe thermometer. Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F and the longer you let it cook past that temp, the drier it becomes. (Think about an over-cooked turkey at Thanksgiving)

Garnish with sliced scallions, fresh orange slices or minced parsley.

Bacon Parmesan Potato Salad

It’s that time of the year again! Bama Football kicks off today and I’ve had several requests for some tailgating recipes, so over the next few weeks, I’ll post some game day ideas.

Back in 2007, The Birmingham News asked for one of my composed salad recipes to feature in a special about July 4th cooking so I wrote down my recipe for Bacon-Parmesan Potato Salad. It’s a great salad to enjoy on game day because it can be made days in advance and held in the frig. Not only do I make it for tailgating on the Quad, it’s also the salad of choice I’m asked to bring when we party on the lake. Give it a shot! It’s a great alternative to traditional potato salad!

  • 3 1/2 pounds russet baking potatoes
  • 1 3oz package fully cooked bacon pieces or 12 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup Ranch salad dressing
  • 1 cup Creamy Caesar salad dressing
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Wash the potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, wrap in foil and bake at 400F for 1 hour or until potatoes are soft. Let potatoes cool, then refrigerate until chilled. (Potatoes can be baked up to 2 days prior to preparing the salad.)
In a large bowl, combine the garlic, green onions, both salad dressings, celery salt, basil leaves, thyme and horseradish. Dice cooked, un-peeled potatoes and add to the wet ingredients, stirring until fully combined. Add the bacon, reserving 1 tbsp for garnish. Add the Parmesan cheese and mix will. Sprinkle remaining bacon atop the salad and serve.
Makes 10-12 servings!