Leftover Thanksgiving Dinner Pizza!

Last night I embarked upon what may have been my greatest culinary experiment to date.  I don’t want to over sell this, but, I believe what I did with leftover turkey would have made even the most proper puritan dance with glee!

Last weekend my husband and I popped into an ATM vestibule and while we waited in line we chatted about the menu for our Thanksgiving weekend board game party.  As we bounced around a few ideas I started playing with the thought of making a Thanksgiving pizza.  It didn’t take long for the other people in the small room to jump in and share some of their own ideas for what might be part of such a creation.  

I was already thinking of things like turkey (obviously), fruit, nuts, celery, a strong cheese, and herbs.  The first suggestion was to use a white sauce or something suggestive of gravy.  I liked it but wasn’t sold.  The next suggestion was to include grapes.  I liked the idea of roasted grapes providing a little sweet and tart flavor.  The last idea thrown out was cranberry pesto.  BINGO!  Pesto sounded like the perfect way to bring together the flavors I already had in mind.

Last night, I made a double batch of a basic pizza crust recipe using half wheat, and a quarter each of bread and all purpose flour. The crusts may qualify these pizzas to be dubbed trendy flatbreads rather than average pizzas.  I used sheet pans resulting in an oblong free form shape rather than the recognizable circle.  Maybe that made them rustic… Anywho.  I par-baked the crusts for 10 minutes one at a time before laying on all the toppings.

The toppings were a bit more involved than my usual pizza but trust me totally worth the effort.  I started with a tiny brush of olive oil over the entire crust and then layered on the following:

Cranberry Pesto –  After running all the raw cranberries through the food processor, the color was very much like that famous pink stomach remedy but it tasted great! I made it in the morning to give the flavors plenty of time to mingle and get all pesto-y by dinner time.

Leftover Turkey –  I used all white meat for turkey that I cubed small and tossed with some slices of garlic that roasted with the bird and a couple shakes of dry poultry seasoning.  

Caramelized Aromatic Veggies – While the crusts were par-baking I cooked some thin sliced yellow onion and celery heart until they were all soft and caramelized.

Gorgonzola Cheese – I cheated and picked up a small tub of crumbled cheese and then split the entire container between the two pizzas.  I felt like a rebel to my own cause carelessly tossing cheese around (Is that sad? Wait don’t tell me).  I also sprinkled a little shredded cheddar over the top out of habit but it was completely unnecessary.

Fried Onions – Oh yes, I went there and it was soooo worth it!  I had most of a tub leftover after slimming down my green bean casserole.  A little crunchy topping sounded like just the ticket to take all the flavors right back to the Thanksgiving table.  I crunched them up in my hand and dusted them over the pies right before finishing them in the oven for an additional 15 minutes each.

When the pizzas came out of the oven the crust had a nice crunch on the edges with a chewy center, the cranberries turned a beautiful merlot color, the gorgonzola was soft and pungent, the fried onions were toasted, and the entire pizza smelled like a meal fit for the Jamestown Colonists.  I almost teared up with joy.  I didn’t, of course, because that might have made my in-laws uncomfortable.  In addition to the pizza I made a nice vegetarian chili both for the vegetarians and in case the whole pizza project was a disaster.  Together with a colorful salad, (brought by my in-laws) our meal was ready to go.

Plates were filled and eating began, would they try it, like it, take one bite and leave the rest on their plates?!?  I held my breath.  They liked it!  My mother in-law confirmed, the pizza did actually taste like a Thanksgiving dinner and it was good!  Oh happy day!  

The whole wheat flour in the crust and the caramelized veggies tasted just like stuffing and the other flavors and textures worked fantastically.  The best part about this experiment is, we now have leftover leftovers, something I am completely okay with!

Cranberry Pesto:
Adapted from a posting on www.food.com by Recipe Junkie who took it from, “So Easy So Delicious” by Ellie Deaner

1 1/2 cup cranberries
12 large basil leaves
5 sage leaves
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts



Combine most of the ingredients in a large food processor bowl -reserve a tablespoon of the oil and a little of all the others. Pulse machine until the pesto is coarsely ground.  Add the remaining ingredients slowly, to taste, pulse to combine.  The finished pesto will be a course paste. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate for at least four hours to allow the flavors to develop.  Use the pesto as a dip for veggies or crackers or with pasta or pizza.




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