Off the Grill and Into the Fire
Summer is nearly upon us and many members of our profession look forward to this season of outdoor cooking in the beautiful Northwest. Well, I’m not one of them. Indoors or out, I cook about as well as I imagine Queen Elizabeth would play ice hockey. If a meal is going to take more preparation than three minutes in a microwave and cannot be consumed off a paper towel, I’ll just go out to eat, thanks.
A couple of summers ago, I was invited to a camping weekend in the San Juans, during which I was reminded why I don’t cook. Following is a recipe and instructions I have reconstructed from memory of our group’s attempt to bake a pizza at a campsite. Feel free to try it the next time you find yourself in a campground with time to kill and plenty of other food to eat.
(Editor’s Note: It is possible to grill an edible, fully cooked pizza. See this recipe for instructions.)
Papa Michele’s Six-Hour Campfire Pizza
- Olive oil
- Tomato sauce (purée)
- Mozzarella, Parmesan or some other impressive-sounding cheese, shredded
- Feta cheese
- Mushrooms, thinly sliced
- Bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, thinly sliced
- Italian sausage, cooked ahead
- Chopped fresh basil
- Pepperoni, thinly sliced
- Onions, thinly sliced
- Sliced ham
- Tube of prefabricated pizza dough of some sort
- Start a campfire in one of those fire pits where you have to lift a sooty 200-pound cast iron grill into place to get started. If you don’t have one of those at your campsite, just eat everything raw and disregard the rest of this recipe.
- Find a suitable flat surface, such as the top of the Roosevelt-era (I’m talking Teddy) picnic table most likely situated near your fire pit. Place a large sheet of aluminum foil atop the table, unless you want the pizza to be dusted with paper-plate ashes, pine needles, and owl droppings. Flatten the dough (remove from tube first) onto the foil and gradually pound into the shape of a pizza.
- Using your hands, or preferably someone else’s, spread the remaining ingredients onto the dough in a pizza-like fashion. Start with the tomato sauce, then just toss the other stuff right on there.
- Wrap the foil around the entire pizza and crimp all along the edges.
- Place the aluminum-encased pizza onto the grill above the campfire.
- After five minutes, open the foil just enough to see that no baking whatsoever is taking place. Repeat every five minutes for five hours.
- Watch in famished envy as everyone else eats the hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, etc., they brought.
- In disgust, remove the still-uncooked pizza from the grill and place it directly into the fire pit, which should have a nice bed of coals built up by now. Steal a hot dog and forget about the pizza entirely.
- After approximately one more hour, remember that there’s a &*%$# pizza in the campfire. Remove pizza from campfire.
- Discover that the picnic table is now covered in trash and that the only other available horizontal surface is the lid of the Coleman stove someone brought to make breakfast.
- Place the pizza on the lid of the Coleman stove. Use caution, as the pizza will be approximately 50 percent wider than the stove.
- Inquire as to whether anyone in camp happens to have brought a pizza cutter (unlikely) or at least a decent kitchen knife (nope). Retrieve from your glove box that Boy Scout pocketknife your dad gave you that you use once every five years to shuck oysters. Wipe the rust on your pants.
- Using an increasingly desperate sawing motion, cut into the pizza to discover that while the toppings are desiccated beyond recognition and the outer layer of crust is burned to a charcoal-like texture, the inside of the crust remains a sickly, beige paste. Continue sawing vigorously, which will make you feel better.
- Throw the knife aside and tear the pizza into chunks small enough to eat, not that it’s ever going to happen.
- Look around and realize all your friends already have retired to their campers/tents/hammocks for the night.
- Store the leftover (i.e. entire) pizza in any fashion you wish. Rest assured that no living thing — raccoon, bear, human or otherwise — is going to go anywhere near it.
- Plan all future camping trips to be within delivery distance of a Domino’s location. Their “Artisan” pizzas aren’t half-bad.