I lived without outdoor space for many years, so when my husband and I finally moved to an apartment with a porch, we knew it was only a matter of time before we threw an outdoor party — specifically, a grilled pizza party!
I've already shared the party plan and the simple menu with you. Here's a full look at the party itself, from the grill setup and topping-chopping marathon to the final shots of the pizza in all its charred, melted glory.
The Morning of the Party
One of the the things I loved about this get-together is that I didn't have to start prepping for it days in advance. The meal components were easy enough that I made most things that morning. I did make the pizza dough the day before, but you can also make it the day of if you get the sudden urge for pizza!
Our friends weren't arriving until the afternoon, so the morning of the party my husband swept the porch and wiped down our outdoor table and chairs. Then he fired up the grill to cook the corn and jalapenos for the dip while I assembled the salad. Within the hour both dishes were ready to go, so I covered them with plastic wrap and stuck them in the refrigerator to chill until the party.
I then turned my attention to Faith's summer cake which, while very easy to put together, needs plenty of time to cool before you top it with whipped cream. After baking the cake, and with two hours left to go until our friends arrived, I left the cake to cool on the stove and checked my to-do list. The only thing left? Prepping the pizza toppings.
In other words, it was time for the Chopping Toppings portion of the day.
Pizza Toppings Mise en Place on the Porch
What do you do when the weather is glorious and you have an abundance of fresh ingredients that need to be sliced, diced, and shredded? Do you stand inside chopping at your kitchen counter? No! You take it to the porch.
(Ok, in all honesty we took it to the porch because the lighting was better for photos, but I have to say I kind of loved it. My porch dining table is way larger than my kitchen countertop, so there was plenty of room to set out all the ingredients and bowls and systematically make my way through everything.)
Having moved the prep outside, my husband and I cut thick slabs of mozzarella, minced red onion, and sliced avocados. We crumbled goat cheese, stripped the corn cobs of corn, and split some cherry tomatoes. Back in the kitchen we washed and dried the basil and arugula, and unwrapped the prosciutto. All told it took us about 30 minutes to get the toppings ready.
Am I likely to make a habit of doing all my prep work out on the porch? No, of course not. That's not very practical. But for today — sure, why not? Plus, given that I'm 8 months pregnant, being able to sit down while prepping all these ingredients was a major bonus!
The Menu for a Pizza Party on the Porch
Our Friends Arrive! Time for Beer, Chips, and Dip.
Pizza toppings prepped, we cleared away all the scraps, washed the table, and I set it for the meal. Soon our friends started to arrive, which meant it was time to bring out the drinks and dip!
In keeping with the low-maintenance menu, my husband bought a selection of food-friendly, mostly sessionable beers. We wanted beers that wouldn't, you know, make people drunk on a Saturday afternoon! Session beers are beers with less than 5% alcohol (although a couple may have slipped over the limit). We chose a few beers we thought everyone would love (the Firestone Opal Farmhouse Ale, the Ommegang Witte Wheat Ale, and the Pretty Things Jack D'or, for example) but also a few hoppier ones, like the Jack's Abbey Session Rye IPA, for the more adventurous among us.
For a non-alcoholic drink option, I made a strawberry basil simple syrup and mixed it with sparkling water. Not only is it the perfect summer soda, but it looks so pretty to boot!
Grilling the Pizza
With our friends all assembled and drinks poured, it was time for the main event: grilling the pizza. After letting the charcoal get nice and hot (which took about 30 minutes), we set the toppings on a table near the grill and got to work.
This is an important step. As Faith wrote in her How To Grill Pizza post, it's crucial to have all pizza toppings at the ready when you're grilling pizza: "This is because the key to pizza on the grill is to top the pizza after you've put it on the grill," she writes. "It also helps if you cook the dough for a minute or two, flip it, and then top it."
We grilled the dough first then flipped it, took it off the heat, added the toppings, and slid the whole thing back onto the grill for a few more minutes. The result was a slightly charred crust (with telltale grill marks) that had great chew. (More pizza grilling tips coming in a post tomorrow!)
Sitting Down to Eat
Once we'd finished grilling the first round of pizzas, I took the salad out of the refrigerator, pulled out a few more bottles of beer, and we all sat down to feast. With an array of vegetables before us — tomatoes! corn! spinach! avocado! — and two completely vegetarian pizzas, this was the pizza spread of my dreams.
There was a little something for everyone here. Care for a rich, creamy bite? Go for the white pizza with avocado. Feel like a taste of summer? Try the corn and tomato version. In the mood for a classic, can't-go-wrong pizza? Then it's arugula and prosciutto for you.
When we'd had our fill of pizza (as if there is such a thing!), it was time for dessert. This lovely summer cake was the perfect end to the meal — not too heavy, and with plenty of fruit.
And with that the Pizza Party on the Porch came to a close... well, a few guitar songs and backyard wiffleball pitches later! The day felt special, but not overwhelming — just how a casual party should be!
Featured Party Resources
PORCH and GRILL
(Image credits: Kristin Teig)