Marcus Samuelsson's Pizza on the Grill

The Red Rooster chef shares a favorite Memorial Day recipe. Plus, 10 summer wines under $20
Marcus Samuelsson's Pizza on the Grill
The chef likes to top this grilled pizza with a creamy, runny poached egg. (Pizza image from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; portrait from Marcus Samuelsson Group)
May 15, 2015

Memorial Day is to grilled fare as Thanksgiving is to turkey. You can’t not grill, but you can think creatively and move beyond the tried-and-true menu of burgers, steaks and hot dogs. This year, why not take a cue from Marcus Samuelsson and make grilled pizza?

“My favorite way to celebrate the long weekend is grilling with my wife, Maya, and a bunch of friends at the park or in our backyard in Harlem,” Samuelsson says. “I have a great Big Green Egg for grilling, and I make sure there is plenty of wine and the perfect music playlist.”

Grilled pizza is one of his go-to dishes on a charcoal-friendly holiday like Memorial Day. “Pizza on the grill has that nostalgic summer feeling to it,” he says. “It’s charred and imperfect, and the smoky flavor tends to enhance all the fresh ingredients that you can top it with.”

This laid-back style—in life and in food—has come to define Samuelsson. The Swedish-Ethiopian chef, who endeared himself to many Americans during his Top Chef tenure, began his career in Manhattan fine dining at Scandinavian spot Aquavit and has since staked a serious claim in Harlem with Red Rooster, which quickly became a local institution with its mix of soul food and Caribbean, Swedish and Asian influences. This season, he opened his latest restaurant, Streetbird Rotisserie, a funky, boisterous spot offering a similar fusion of flavors. It reads as a perfect expression of Samuelsson’s—and Harlem’s—personality.

Samuelsson’s pizza recipe piles two dishes into one. “It’s two foods that everyone loves: pizza and Caesar salad. It’s a crowd pleaser,” he says. A traditional pizza with mozzarella, oven-dried tomato, olives, roasted red peppers and basil is topped with crisp romaine tossed in tangy, garlicky Caesar dressing. Apart from being delicious, it eliminates the need for salad plates and utensils.

The dish also invites guest participation in a way that flipping burgers does not. “I love the hands-on element of it,” Samuelsson notes. “It’s fun to have friends grill their own—one of my favorite ways to pull together a rooftop cookout.” He also likes to top each pizza with a poached egg.

If you want to cut down on prep time during your barbecue, you can make the dough in advance. “Just make sure to pull it out of the refrigerator a couple hours before you’re ready to roll it out,” he explains. The dressing, too, can be made up to three days ahead; simply whisk it again before serving.

When it comes to wine, Samuelsson and Maya favor crisp, fresh wines in the hot weather. “I pair [the pizza] with one of my favorite summertime wines,” he says: “a chilled dry rosé, or a light white with refreshing minerality, like Muscadet." Although conventional wisdom matches pizza with fruit-driven red wines with soft textures or fresh acidity, a successful pairing all depends on the pizza toppings. Here a mineral-driven wine with herbal notes will echo the tangy, citrusy Caesar dressing while lightening the entire dish. Below, we provide a list of recently rated rosé and Muscadet bottlings.

Pizza on the Grill with Caesar Salad

Excerpted from Marcus Off Duty © 2014 by Marcus Samuelsson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

For the dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2–3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

For the Caesar dressing:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 2 limes

For the pizzas:

  • 1 large fresh tomato, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 cup shredded romaine lettuce

To make the dough:
1. Put the water in a bowl, stir in the yeast and sugar, and let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the salt, olive oil and 2 1/2 cups of flour, and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, about 8 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if the dough seems too wet. Put the dough into a well-oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead in the garlic and basil. Put it back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

To make the dressing:
1. Put the egg yolks, mustard, chopped garlic and anchovies into a blender. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream, then pour in the lime juice and blend until emulsified, about 1 minute. Scrape the dressing into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until you need it. It will keep for about 3 days.

To make the pizzas:
1. While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 250°F.

2. Put the chopped tomato on a small rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the black pepper and the sugar. Bake until the tomato pieces have dried, about 1 hour.

3. Put the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil in a small bowl. Add the minced garlic and microwave for 30 seconds.

4. Preheat a gas grill to high.

5. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a ball and pat down on a lightly floured surface. Use your fingers to stretch the dough into 10-inch oblongs; it’s nice if you leave a slightly thicker rim.

6. Turn half the grill down to medium. Brush 1 piece of dough with the garlic oil and place it, oiled side down, on the high-heat side of the grill. The dough will begin to puff almost immediately. When the bottom crust has lightly browned, use two spatulas to turn the dough over onto the medium-heat side. Working quickly, brush the garlic oil over the crust and then brush with half of the tomato sauce. Scatter with half of the roasted chopped tomatoes, half of the black olives and half of the roasted red peppers. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella and half of the basil. Close the lid and cook the pizza until the cheese melts. Remove the pizza from the grill and set it aside while you prepare the second pizza with the remaining ingredients.

7. Toss the arugula, romaine and some of the Caesar dressing together. Cut the pizzas in half, pile the salad on top and serve right away. Serves 4.

Recommended French Rosés

DOMAINE DE NIZAS Languedoc Rosé 2013 Score: 90 | $17
A creamy and plush rosé, with density and depth to the plum, cherry and Cavaillon melon flavors, lingering with notes of spice and white chocolate. Drink now.—K.M.

DOMAINE LAFOND Tavel Roc-Epine 2014 Score: 88 | $18
A ripe and flattering rosé, with delicious cherry, creamed strawberry and raspberry fruit gliding along, carried by well-embedded acidity and staying fresh through the anise-accented finish. Drink now. 35,000 cases made.—J.M.

M. CHAPOUTIER Côtes du Rhône Rosé Belleruche 2014 Score: 86 | $16
Direct, offering brisk strawberry and white cherry notes. Quick, with good cut on the finish. Drink now. 60,000 cases made.—J.M.

COMMANDERIE DE LA BARGEMONE Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Rosé 2014 Score: 86 | $19
A touch lean, with a light savory edge to the cherry pit and white peach core. Offers a lightly tangy finish. Drink now. 17,200 cases imported.—J.M.

CHÂTEAU ROUTAS Coteaux Varois en Provence Rosé 2014 Score: 86 | $15
A tangy, brisk style, with savory, cherry pit and orange pulp notes zipping through a bright finish. Drink now. 9,000 cases imported.—J.M.

Recommended Muscadets

JÉRÔME CHOBLET Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu Sur Lie Clos de la Fine 2013 Score: 87 | $15
A fresh, steely style, with flint, chive and fleur de sel notes weaving around a core of lime zest. Offers a light, pure, chiseled finish. Drink now. 1,500 cases made.—J.M.

DOMAINE DU HAUT BOURG Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu Sur Lie Pavillon 2013 Score: 87 | $17
Offers a juicy-edged lime and kiwifruit core. Marjoram notes ripple through the fresh finish. Drink now. 2,000 cases made. —J.M.

DOMAINE MÉNARD-GABORIT Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie MéGaNome Cuvée Prestige 2013 Score: 87 | $19
Brisk-edged lemon peel and lime pulp notes are laced with herb and sel gris accents. Offers a mouthwatering finish. Drink now. 2,500 cases made.—J.M.

GADAIS PÈRE & FILS Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie Domaine de la Tourmaline 2013 Score: 86 | $15
Light peach, herb and straw notes mingle, with a quick, refreshing finish. Drink now. 8,000 cases made.—J.M.

DOMAINE DU HAUT BOURG Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu Sur Lie 2013 Score: 86 | $15
Shows a plump edge, with grapefruit and gooseberry jelly notes. The light thyme and fleur de sel accents lend balance and zip. Drink now. 4,000 cases made.—J.M.

Pizza Holidays / Celebrations Memorial Day Spring Rosé White Wines Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet) Recipes

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