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Old 05-26-2010, 06:56 PM
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Default Thinking about my first big party

I've had up to six people dining at once, only needed four pizzas, two "sessions", so I did everything with a little help from my wife. However, I'm considering my first larger parties and I don't see how I will be able to make pizzas and tend the fire? I don't want the fire to die down, but I'm not sure who else can confidently flatten out decent pies. It has taken me quite a bit of practice to figure out how to do that, so I wouldn't necessarily expect guests to be able to do it. My wife an certainly help, but to be honest, I have usually done it so far, so she lacks practice too.

Any general advice on how to divide labor and otherwise manage a larger party without letting the fire die?

Thanks.
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Old 05-26-2010, 07:49 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about my first big party

To be honest, cooking the pizza is easier then building them. Since all (most) guys like fire - build one, walk outside and cook one in front of someone that you trust. Run back inside and start building. Granted, you are taking on the hardest job. The way I do it, is have my wife show the guest how to build. They bring them out and I cook. I have no proof, but sometimes I think she is getting more wine, because some of the stuff that comes out of the house is 3 inches thick.

Les...
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Old 05-26-2010, 07:52 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about my first big party

Hi Keith!

My approach is simple. When we have a large group I am the pizziaolo. I do it all. As fast as they cook I basically do one at a time, beginning to form the next pie as the preceding one bakes. With juniper I have to take a brief break when I add a new log to let it get over the sputtering and possible smoke but other than that I just go.

I would suggest keeping it to 16 to 20 first try. And another idea is to have pizza just be one element so you don't have to rely on it as the primary food.

As we discussed with Elizabeth (Galecki) with large groups (say 25 or more) it really saves hassle to use commercial sauce and pregrated cheese and to limit the number of kinds of pizza. When I have up to 8 people I usually do 8 different pies. At 20 I usually do three.

I am sure you will get a lot of other ideas on this topic!

Good Luck!
Jay
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Old 05-26-2010, 08:11 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about my first big party

Cool, thanks guys.
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Old 05-26-2010, 08:17 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about my first big party

Im the same as Jay. I get the fire going and make sure I have heaps of wrist sized bit of wood next to the oven ready to go. I put a new bit in maybe every 20 mins or so. I find that I make the first pizza and slide it in, I then have time to stretch out the next pizza and apply the sauce by the time I have to do the first turn on the one Im cooking. I turn it and then go back to making the second pizza. By the time the first pizza is cooked the second one is ready to go it...I pull out the first one and put it on the chopping board and in goes the next. I think my last cook we did about 18 pizzas like this. The only bad thing is being the pizza man means you dont get to make your own till the very end...but there is always time to have a good couple of mouthfulls of beer while you cook!!

Hope this helps

Scott
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Old 05-26-2010, 08:18 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about my first big party

I was making pies while I was cooking them. Then I turned the cooking over to my husband, but he forgot to add wood to the fire...(apparently "flame licking over the dome" doesn't mean the same to him as to me...) I ended up making about 30 pizzas total, over the course of several hours.

I used bertolli's marinara sauce I whirled in the blender for pizza sauce, and packaged cheese and pepperoni. I presliced mushrooms, precooked some sausage, and used jarred roasted red peppers as well.

I had also made pulled pork a few days beforehand in the oven, and we ate that as well, which made the pizza load a bit less!

If you look for the thread "first large party" you'll see the excellent advice I was given by many!

(thanks again, guys!)
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Old 05-26-2010, 08:38 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about my first big party

1) Let your wife tend the fire. Have a practice run or two to make sure you're on the same page.

2) If you have more than 5 people and haven't pre-cut, sliced, grated, chopped and mixed everything you'll need, you're nuts. If you really just have to have guests messing with veggies let them toss the salad. Everything else should be done ahead of time.

3) Appetizers! Throw some cheese whiz on some crackers if nothing else but have nibbles set out before the first guest arrives. If they can graze they can wait a lot more patiently when (not if) something goes wrong than they can if they are already half starved. (In keeping with the oven theme bake some nifty breads the day before and set them out with a variety of spreads and butters - you won't need as much pizza and no one gets hurt when the herd stampedes for the food.)

4) Have a large working surface. You can prep the dough and the guests can plop on the toppings. After say five are prepped, you start popping them in the oven. Repeat until everyone has been served. I did mention appetizers, right? You don't want some guests with food and others without for more than a minute - less if at all possible.

5) Anything that is not pizza belongs on another table somewhere else - preferably far from the pizza prep. Some guests will gather near the oven - that's fine. But you don't want them feeling like they have to herd around you. That will slow you down and be miserable for both you and them.

6) Anything that can conceivably be prepped beforehand should be. Lay out tablecloths, decorations, plates, glassware (yeah, yeah - cover them), et al the day before. You will have enough to do the day of the party and it's no fun to be so flustered that you can't enjoy your own party. That may not be directly related to your question but it does have an indirect effect - the more frustrated you become the worse you will perform. Once you get flustered you'll lose track of what your doing and will spend the night apologizing for the charcoal pizza. The only work you should do that night is making pizza. Get your wife to tend the fire and help watch the pies (people can be so distracting) - and have a good time!
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Old 05-26-2010, 09:28 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about my first big party

Your pictures Keith don't show a work area near the oven. My oven is close to 100 feet by foot and ten feet vertically from my house so we take EVERYTHING down to the cooking/eating patio. IMO you should build/get some work surface near the oven to hold dough balls, peels for pies, toppings, an ice chest etc.

Archenas comments are good. Prep is critical. I usually make my toppings the day before. We actually keep baskets loaded with the tablecloths, pizza cutter, plates, etc. that we normally need. Making a checklist would not be a bad idea until you have a standard pattern.

One other thought...it doesn't take much doctoring to make bottled marinare/sauces taste pretty special. I often add some red wine vinegar, a bit of fresh marjoram or thyme, some extra EVOO. It makes a big difference.

Hang in there!
Jay
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Old 05-26-2010, 09:40 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about my first big party

Quote:
Originally Posted by scottz View Post
I find that I make the first pizza and slide it in, I then have time to stretch out the next pizza and apply the sauce by the time I have to do the first turn on the one Im cooking. I turn it and then go back to making the second pizza. By the time the first pizza is cooked the second one is ready to go it
How do you do this in 90 - 120 seconds? I must being doing something wrong. I've been shooting for a temp on the hearth of 700 - 750. I get great results but, there is no way I can do it all that fast.

Les...
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Old 05-26-2010, 11:46 PM
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Default Re: Thinking about my first big party

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les View Post
How do you do this in 90 - 120 seconds? I must being doing something wrong. I've been shooting for a temp on the hearth of 700 - 750. I get great results but, there is no way I can do it all that fast.

Les...
Hey Les....it has been a Loooooooong process to get my pizzas going like this. It took about 9 months to learn how to stretch the dough and Im still only JUST getting it!! Like everyone else I have everything pre-sliced, chopped, blended and everything is set up ready to go!!!! All I have to do is dunk the dough ball in flour and stretch away. Doesnt take long to get it stretched out (like everyone says, the best pizzas arnt perfectly round!!), spread the sauce and turn the pizza that is cooking. Not sure what temp my oven is....I let the carbon burn off, push the fire to one side and wait about 20 mins for the floor to cool. So I guess about ther 380 C mark (for us Aussies I think that is close to 700????, not too sure) and I cook my pizzas in about 3 mins or so. I do let people make their own if they wish too, I know the kids and their mates love doing it that way.

Keep at it....its fun when you get it, but my wife will tell you there has been the odd one or fifty swear words thrown from my pizza oven in the process

Scott
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