Dinner Party: Pizza Perfection

I am a huge fan of dinner parties.  They’re not the work people make them out to be, and I find the experience to be vastly rewarding.  I’m currently a member of a group that functions as a food “book club”– we take turns hosting, the hostess picks the menu, the guests bring the booze.  Our significant others take this opportunity to play poker and smoke cigars.  Everybody wins!

This month our hostess went all out with pizza made from scratch. For some reason this greatly intimidates me, and that particular some reason includes having to touch wet sticky dough (I’ve got a mild neurosis about getting my hands dirty) and perhaps an oven at 500ish degrees.  But I do L-O-V-E a crispy pizza crust.  I will eventually tackle this with all my kitchen gadgets.  For now I will live vicariously through my dear dinner party conspirator. The other great part about this menu is that it goes with just about any beverage- beer, reds, whites, and well when you’re making pizza, you can basically drink as much as you want.  Have fun, live a little and carb load. It’s a party folks.

We started off with a caprese bruschetta.  This is a good appetizer to keep in your back pocket; the hardest thing about it is finding the quality ingredients: mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, bread. Then you take all of 2 minutes to slice and layer. If you want to get really advanced you can drizzle with oil or balsamic vinegar, or both. For our meal, she also spread pesto on the sesame baguette first. The result, an appealing appetizer for both sight and taste.

Pizza is such a staple in American food culture that I think we’ve lost a little bit of respect for the art that goes into it.  The sauce she made came from real ingredients and stewed while we had appetizers and salad. The dough was seasoned before the toppings and dusted with cornmeal for extra crunch.  Our hostess made the pizza as we were present with a variety of ingredients: mushrooms, artichokes, pepperoni, olives keeping things classically American.  The temperature of the oven, coupled with a hot pizza stone yielded my favorite kind of crust: crisp and crunchy.  I’d eat my pizza on a wheat thin if that wasn’t weird, but I digress.

I am fully inspired to try to use my own pizza steel now.  The actual cooking of pizza was not hard at all and we only set off the fire alarm once as the cornstarches just couldn’t keep up, but added their final flavoring in a swan song of smoke.  How’s that for a literary description?  I thoroughly enjoyed the charring effect.

Topping the night off, we munched on freshly baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. By this point, I’d stuffed my face on pizza and bruschetta, but it’s dinner party and no one wants to be rude.  Ok, ok, I ate two cookies.  They were an excellent closing, not overly sweet and went well as a balance of crunch and chewy that flowed with the rest of the menu’s textural components. I couldn’t have asked for a better dessert.

Dinner parties don’t have to be scary. Need more motivation? Keeping a simple eye appealing appetizer with an ambitious entree and a classic dessert is a recipe for success.

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