Za Par-tay (Pizza Party)


…and fly fishing for Silver Salmon on the Italio River

By Guest columnist Dan Sholly

If you don’t play serious Scrabble, you may not know that za is an acceptable word for pizza. Having a homemade za making party can be very rewarding…providing for a wonderful social evening and lots of delicious food. And it’s really simple.
So what does pizza and fly fishing for Silver Salmon and have to do with each other? A few years back a couple of friends and I flew into Yakutat in the southeast corner of Alaska. We hopped on a very small plane with big fat tires and we flew south along the ocean, landing on the beach near the Italio River. We camped there for a week, fly fishing our days away, catching 15 pounders until our arms hurt. Grizzly Bears and wolves were all about us, leaving tell-tale tracks along the stream banks for us to observe each morning. The tracks reminded us that we (man) were ‘number two’ along the Italio…a respect that we always kept in the front of our mind as we plodded through the willows and the woods.
On our return to Austin we stopped off in Anchorage for a couple of days to see old friends and to buy the girls some jewelry from the great shops around town. While there we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Jerry and his wife lived in a beautiful cabin south of Anchorage about 12 miles, on a hillside overlooking Cook Inlet. The view from their porch across the bay into the smoking volcanoes went forever and the sunset was amazing. Our friend had invited about 12 other friends over and he said “we are going to have a pizza making party”. Jerry had constructed a brick oven off to the side of his porch for baking bread and pizzas.
Jerry’s kitchen and dining area opened to a large wooden porch overlooking the bay. The open kitchen had numerous built-in counters which worked well as serving areas. On the counters were bowls of various kinds of meat…including moose, salmon, sausage, and a number of different sauces, cheeses, and vegetables? At one counter was the ‘pizza dough station’. When it was your turn to make a pizza, you took a ball of dough, rolled it out, and placed it on a cornmeal covered pizza paddle. You then proceeded to ‘build’ the pizza of your dreams. Once you completed making your pizza; you walked outside and pushed it into the brick oven. The pizza rolled right off the board with the cornmeal serving sort of like ball bearings. About 12 minutes later the pizza was done. You merely push the pizza paddle under the crust of the pizza and retrieve it out of the oven. Slide it on to a pizza serving pan or large cutting board. Slice it up with a pizza cutter…and voila! The freshest and best tasting pizza you ever made. Share it with your dinner friends and stand by to taste whatever concoction they come up with.
When I returned to Austin I was determined to have a homemade pizza party. Now how do you have a ‘za par-tay’ when you don’t have a wood fired brick pizza oven in your yard? Well…my son and his wife had given me a ‘pizza stone’. While not quite as good as a brick wood fired oven, it works fine.

So what do I need to have a pizza par-tay?

1. A pizza stone – can be purchased at most kitchenware stores
2. Pizza Serving Pan
3. A regular kitchen oven (if you don’t happen to have a wood fired brick oven)
4. Pizza paddle (Baker’s Peel) recommends at least two)
5. Cheese grater and a pizza cutter
6. Pizza dough (see recipe below), mixing bowl, measuring cup…yada, yada, yada
7. Various meats (sausage, pepperoni, salmon, chicken, venison, moose, elk, clams, ham, crab, Canadian bacon… (Whatever you have and like), etc. Meat should be ‘pre-cooked’ prior to putting on pizza.
8. Cheeses – mozzarella, cheddar, ricotta, Romano …etc
9. Sauces – roasted tomato sauce, fresh herb pesto…etc
10. Vegetables/spices – onions, tomatoes, olives, basil, peppers, oregano, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper…etc
Pizza Dough – There are way too many pizza dough recipes to list. Whatever you do, do not buy pre-made dough or a pre-made crust. Making pizza dough and rolling it out is all part of the ‘za par-tay’. It’s a great experience for your guests who have never tried to roll out a semi-round pizza crust.
One of my favorite and old stand-by recipes comes from The Italian Baker…Carol Field.

  • 1¾ tsp dry yeast
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1⅓ cups warm water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3¾ cup unbleached all purpose flour (I substitute some wheat flour)
  • 1 ½ tsp salt

Stir yeast and sugar into water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir in oil. Mix flour and salt, one cup at a time into yeast mixture.
Knead dough for about 10 minutes

First Rise

Place dough in lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise…about 45 minutes to one hour.
Punch down on a lightly floured surface.
Divide dough and shape into 2-3 balls. This recipe should make at least two 12 inch pizzas. Make as many batches as you need in order to make pizzas for your party.
Dough balls can be put in plastic wrap and refrigerated until you need them. Take out in time to let them return to room temperature before you are ready to roll into the crust.
Roll out on a floured board. Once you get the dough rolled out to the size and thickness you desire, transfer it to the pizza board (peel) which should be liberally sprinkled with cornmeal.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Put sauce and other ingredients onto the pizza dough…then slip it onto the pre-heated stone in the oven. I always put some cornmeal on the stone also. This helps center the pizza in case you don’t get it straight when you first put it on.
Cook for 10-12 minutes…remove the pizza from the pizza stone with a pizza board and put on a cutting board or pizza serving pan…cut and Eat.

Roll out a pizza dough like you were making a pizza. Put it on the pizza board. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon…and thinly sliced apples. Cook just like a pizza. Serve with ice cream if you want.

…Having had the great pleasure of being a member of a Za-Par-tay I must admit it is great fun and totally delicious. It is safe to say we all had quite a down home delicious time making and sharing our various pizzas. I expect you will also.

Peggy Sholly
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