Last month, we visited Chicago for a couple of days just because it had been years since we'd spent time walking around that city in warm weather. The most important thing I learned while there is that visiting the Art Institute of Chicago on the day after Labor Day is a delight. The museum was empty since the long weekend had just ended. Unlike visiting it around the holidays when you'll be squeezing between many thick, winter coat-clad elbows in every attempt to view a major work of art, you'll have space to move about and view the art from different angles. I was thrilled to have Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte all to myself for several minutes. That was my favorite thing about our Chicago visit. The most important thing Kurt learned during our visit is that you should always go with your first instinct when choosing something from a menu. We had dinner one night at Avec, and he first thought he wanted a flatbread with speck, blue cheese, and arugula, which is a favorite combination of his, but he then changed his mind and went with the pasta. When he saw one flatbread after the next being delivered to other diners, he was green with envy. This is why when I decided to make grilled pizzas a couple of weeks ago, one of them had to include speck, blue cheese, and arugula. I also made a mushroom version and one with sauteed shishito peppers and fresh mozzarella, and I used my new Camp Chef cast iron pizza pan that was provided by CSGrills.com.
There are a couple of tricks to grilling pizza. First, you need to cook both sides of the dough since the intense heat doesn't reach the top side very well. So, the pizza dough is placed on the grill pan, in this case, and cooked for a few minutes, then it's flipped. The second trick is that you need to work quickly so the crust doesn't burn. The cheese should be added to the browned side of the dough first and then the other toppings. By the time all the toppings are in place, the pizza is probably almost done. Therefore, any vegetables that you'd like to have somewhat cooked on the pizza should be cooked before going on as a topping. I sauteed sliced mushrooms and whole shishito peppers before heading to the grill. I also grated, chopped, or sliced all the cheeses I intended to use. Everything should be prepped and in reach. For the mushroom pizza, I used grated quadrello di bufala cheese, for the speck, the cheese was chunks of smokey blue from Rogue Creamery, and the shishito pepper pizza was topped with slices of fresh mozzarella and shards of parmigiano reggiano. The dough for these was made from the recipe in the A16 book which I've made before, and it's easy to make but needs to be started in advance. By starting the dough two days before you plan to use it, and storing it in the refrigerator after mixing and then after folding and turning, it develops great flavor.
Of course, you can grill pizza directly on the grate, but having the cast iron pan made it a little easier. The dough didn't stick at all to the cast iron, and it was very easy to scoop under the crust with a peel for turning the dough and removing finished pizzas. I always love a mushroom pizza especially when it's drizzled with a little truffle oil as this one was, and Kurt was finally able to forget his menu choice regret.