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Enjoy a Winter Olympics Gold Medal Pizza Party

wolfgangI love winter sports, especially skiing. So you can be sure that, like so many millions of people around the world, I'll be glued to my television during these last few days of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Many viewers, I suspect, will be picking up their phones to order pizzas while they watch. But I'd like to suggest another solution: Make your own delicious gourmet pizzas at home.

And you don't even have to tear yourself away from the TV for much more time than it takes to meet the delivery person at your door. That's because you can do most of the cooking ahead, partially bake your pizzas, then refrigerate or freeze them until it's time to finish baking.

Before I tell you how, though, I'd like to talk about pizzas with the Olympic spirit in mind.

As anyone knows who enjoys pizzas today, these savory pies don't have to be just Italian anymore. Like the Olympics themselves, pizzas welcome all nations and cultures.

You can make your pizzas Indian-style, topping them with spicy grilled chicken or shrimp and curry sauce. Or try Chinese-flavored pizzas, combining your favorite meat with some bottled hoisin sauce from the Asian aisle of your supermarket, adding a mild melting cheese such as mozzarella or fontina, and garnishing the hot-from-the-oven pizza with slivered scallions and maybe some bean sprouts.

Want a Mexican pizza? Add tomato salsa, thinly sliced fresh or pickled jalapeno chiles, and pepper Jack. Jewish pizza? Try my easy classic, in which I smear a fresh-baked pizza crust with chive creme fraiche or cream cheese and drape smoked salmon on top.

Or, since you're probably rooting for the red, white, and blue during the Olympics, why not go for an all-American version like the recipe I share here for Pizza with Barbecued Beef and Onions? (Feel free to substitute chicken, turkey, or pork for the beef.)

So, how do you make these in advance for Olympic-viewing ease?

Prepare the dough following my recipe; or use store-bought packaged pizza dough or bread dough. Shape and top the pizzas following my instructions. Then, one or two days ahead, bake the pizzas for just half of the cooking time, let them cool to room temperature, wrap them in plastic wrap or foil, and refrigerate. If you want to make them further in advance, freeze them after wrapping.

Before you plan to serve the pizzas, preheat the oven with a pizza stone or baking tiles to the specified temperature. Unwrap the frozen or refrigerated pizzas and continue baking until they are hot, browned, and bubbly.

The results will be so delicious that your family and friends are sure to award you the gold medal for cooking!

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PIZZA WITH BARBECUED BEEF AND ONIONS

Makes 4 individual pizzas, each about 8 inches in diameter

Pizza Dough (recipe follows)

3/4 pound cooked leftover beef, thinly sliced

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup store-bought barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 cups shredded organic mozzarella cheese

2 cups shredded organic fontina cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 jalapeno chile, halved, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and thinly sliced (optional)

First, prepare the Pizza Dough.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a mixing bowl, toss with the barbecue sauce. Set aside.

Place a pizza stone or ceramic baking tiles on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil. When it is hot, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Place a pizza dough ball on a lightly floured surface. While turning the dough, press down on its center with the heel of your hand, gradually forming a circle about 8 inches in diameter. With your fingertips, form a slightly thicker raised rim. Lightly brush the dough with oil. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Sprinkle the cheeses evenly over each pizza. Arrange the onions and beef on top.

Using a lightly floured baker's peel or a rimless flat baking sheet, carefully slide pizzas onto the baking stone and bake until the crust is nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes (or bake halfway, let cool, and refrigerate or freeze, to finish baking later).

Carefully use the peel or baking sheet to remove the pizzas from the oven. Transfer to a cutting board, sprinkle with cilantro and, if you like, jalapeno, and cut into slices with a pizza wheel or sharp knife. Serve immediately.

PIZZA DOUGH

Makes 4 individual pizzas

2-1/2 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

1 cup warm water, 105 degrees F to 115 degrees F

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the honey. Let sit until cloudy, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the oil.

Put the flour and salt in a food processor with the stainless-steel blade. Pulse twice. With the machine running, pour in the yeast mixture. Process until the dough forms a ball on the blades. Remove the dough and knead by hand on a lightly floured surface, adding flour as necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave at warm room temperature to rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until it stretches when gently pulled.

Divide the dough into 4 equal balls. Shape each by gently pulling down the sides and tucking each pull underneath, working round and round 4 or 5 times. Then, on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball around under your palm until smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Put the balls on a tray or platter, cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel, and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes. At this point, the dough can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days.

(c) 2010 WOLFGANG PUCK WORLDWIDE, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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