Gourmet Camping Recipe: Sausage and Fennel Grilled Pizza
I tried pushing the bounds of campfire cooking again this weekend while camping with some friends. Wood fired pizza is always delicious, so I thought, “wouldn’t it be even better over an open campfire?” Boy was I right. The crispy crust and smokey combination was ridiculous. It was a little tricky melting the cheese, but a quick camp gear improvisation fixed that straight away. This recipe is more on the fancy side of pizza toppings, but any toppings you like will do quite nicely. The technique and concepts are the same regardless. Give it a try on your next camping adventure. Your fellow campers will be confused and awed at just how awesome you are.
Gourmet Camping Pizza Ingredients
1 medium bulb fennel/anise, cored and sliced
Fennel fronds, chopped (for garnish)
1/2 large onion, sliced
1 pound mild Italian sausage
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 bag prepared pizza dough
Pre-made pizza sauce (home-made, store bought, canned, whatever)
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt and pepper
How to Cook Sausage and Fennel on the Campfire for Your Pizza
Start by prepping your fire in advance. You want a good bed of hot coals that you can easily add and/or remove wood to as needed.
Place a skillet or dutch oven on a camp rack over the coals, or directly over coals (if using a dutch oven). Get the oven/skillet hot, add some olive oil, then add the sausage. Brown the sausage, breaking up into bite-sized pieces as you go. Tend the sausage carefully so that you don’t burn it, but get it nice and caramelized brown. You may need to remove coals and/or wood to avoid hot spots and burning.
Remove the sausage from the skillet/dutch oven and set aside. Add more olive oil to the skillet/dutch oven and saute the fennel and onion together, seasoning with salt and pepper, until they are golden brown and soft.
How to Roll Out Pizza Dough While Camping
Split your dough in half. This recipe will make two 10″ pizzas. Hopefully you have a good sized cutting board in your “car camping” supplies, but if not, use a lid from one of your camping bins, the top of a cooler, or if nothing else, the hood of your car (scrubbed clean of course) as a rolling surface. Put a little olive oil on your surface, then plop one of your dough halves on it, flatten and start stretching it a bit with your hands. You can continue to do this by hand, but you may get a more uniform thickness and round shape if you use a roller of some sort. If you have a rolling pin, use it, but if not, a water bottle makes a great alternative!
How to Cook Pizza Over a Campfire
First things first, CLEAN THE CAMPFIRE RACK! By having it over the fire, it will get nice and hot, but it will also be covered in black soot. Simply run a wet washcloth/sponge across the rack to remove the soot (it’s probably best to lift the rack off the fire for this, then lower it again once cleaned). Do this until the rag no longer turns jet black. Then pour some olive oil on a paper toil and rub across the rack. This will help prevent the dough from sticking.
Now for the fun part. Place your hand over the campfire at rack level to determine temperature. You’re looking to be able to keep your hand at rack level for 10 seconds. If you can’t, adjust the height of the rack and/or remove some of the wood/coals until you can. If it doesn’t feel like you must pull your hand away at 10 seconds, put some more wood/coals on the fire under the rack. 10 seconds will be just perfect to slowly brown and cook the dough without burning it.
Now that your rack is clean and your fire is perfect, place the dough on the rack. Cook it until the bottom side is crispy and has nice dark grill lines on it, about 5 minutes (you can lift a side of the dough now and then to check on it).
Once flipped, double check your 10 second hand temperature check, adding/removing wood/coals if necessary.
Now spread out the pizza sauce, top with half the cheese, then top with half the fennel and onions, then finish with half the Italian sausage and pine nuts (forgot mine today!).
In order for the cheese to melt and all of your toppings to heat through, you will need to cover the pizza to trap the heat in from the coals below. A metal camp plate works perfect for this, but a skillet or tin foil would work as well. If you don’t cover the pizza, the crust will burn before your cheese melts.
Check on your pizza every couple of minutes by lifting the camp plate. It should take about 5 minutes or so to fully cook. Once the cheese has melted, it’s time to remove it from the fire.
To remove pizza from the rack, lift an edge and pull gently to slide off the rack and onto your cutting board/plate/whatever (be careful, the crust is hot). Garnish with reserved fennel fronds. Slice into quarters with a knife and serve piping hot. Repeat for the other pizza dough and remaining toppings. Yum!
Recipe by Jothan Yeager, April 2012
The Bald Gourmet takes his pizza making skills into the wild with Grilled Campfire Sausage and Fennel Pizza.