Ah, Thanksgiving. A time of family and friends, coming together. No gifts, just shared company. And food. Lots and lots of food!
But what do you do with all of that food once Thanksgiving is over? You can only have the same leftovers for so long before it starts to get boring. Well, here’s a little gift for you, my recipe for what to do with those leftovers: Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza!
The concept is one we pretty much all can relate to: pizza. Only this is no ordinary pizza. There’s no tomato sauce. There’s no cheese. It’s a pizza in concept only, with all of those great savory flavors of Thanksgiving.
First up is The Crust. This isn’t pizza dough. That wouldn’t be nearly so much fun. No, this is something much more fattening and delicious, Pillsbury Crescent dough! You know, those croissants in a can? To me they’re a necessity for every Thanksgiving, and for this recipe they make a most excellent crust that sets the tone for the whole savory feast of a meal. I prefer the “Big & Buttery” variety myself, but whichever you choose is sure to be a winner. Just set out a baking sheet. Lube it as necessary, or use parchment paper, or in my case one of those non-stick baking sheets. Then instead of breaking apart the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls into little triangles and rolling them up into croissants, you roll out the whole tube of dough into one big flat rectangular sheet. Pinch the seams to re-seal them into one solid piece so that the crust doesn’t split on you. And there you go, the foundation of Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza is set.
Next is, of course, The Sauce. There ain’t no tomato sauce here. Nuh-uh! There’s only one Thanksgiving leftover ingredient saucy enough for this Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza recipe, and that’s gravy. Yes, you heard right. Of course the sauce is gravy! Okay, some of you are probably thinking cranberry sauce. And I like your creativity. Really, I do. But trust me on this, the sauce to use here is gravy. Gravy gravy gravy. Now, this is one of the hardest parts, you’re going to need to use self control. Gravy makes it all soooo good, but if you use too much gravy here, you’re just going to have a mess that’ll slide right off the crust on you when you try to eat it. And it’ll make constructing the Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza a pain. Too much gravy will taste great, but texturally ruin everything. So don’t slather it on thick. You want just a light brushing of gravy on that crust. And if you absolutely have to use too much, be sure to then thicken it first to make it more suitable. Use corn starch. Use instant mashed potato flakes. Use rue. Whatever works for you, just so long as you make it really thick if you’re going to go overboard with the gravy. But preferably, just go easy on the gravy, because a thin sheen really is all that you need here.
Now, at this point, you’ll want to pre-heat your oven to 325, because the next step is fiddly and will take you some time. You may also want to take a moment for a sip of wine or a shot of whisky to steel yourself.
The third component of Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza is … The Cheese. Of course cheese isn’t typically a Thanksgiving leftover, and just like with every other unconventional alternative to its pizza counterpart, the cheese here is no different. We’re going to use mashed potatoes! Yes, you read that right: mashed potatoes. Now, here’s the thing. For those of you who love your very squishy mashed potatoes with lots of heavy cream (or milk if you must) you’ve made them too soft to use as cheese. Trust me. If you thought too much gravy could ruin the Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza texturally, runny mashed potatoes is just as bad. And keep in mind, these potatoes are going to be grabbing some of that gravy liquid, which will just make them even more runny. That’s why we needed to go sparingly on the gravy. And that’s why even if you made yourself some thick mashed potatoes, you may want to at this juncture thicken them up with some instant mashed potato flakes. Or if you’re a traditionalist (which I can fully respect) with a boiled potato or two. Trust me on this. You want your mashed potatoes thick. Because as they get all warm and gooey, these mashed potatoes are going to have to hold all of those toppings onto the crust, like cheese would, only without the polymerization properties of cheese. It can be done, and is well worth the effort. So when your mashed potatoes are thick enough to serve as the cheese, and you’ve let it cool back down to where you can work with it with your hands, you’ll want to carefully, bit by bit, lay some pre-shaped smudges of mashed potato down onto that sauced crust. You can’t just spread it on. You have to pre-flatten spoonfulls (or whatever you use) and lay them on top, patting them into place. If you used too much gravy it will squish between your dollops of potato. Some of this will occur anyway. It can’t be helped. This is definitely the most painstaking part of making Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza. It will take time and care. Dab and pat down, don’t spread. Once you finish with this, the rest is easy-peasy.
Okay, now that you have basically a Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza without toppings, yes, you guessed it, it’s time for the fourth component: The Toppings! Use whatever leftovers you like as toppings. Turkey goes without saying, which you’ll want to cut into nice little chunks. As do crumbles of stuffing! Corn is always a good one, just be careful that it’s not too wet. I love me some honey candied carrots here as a break from savory flavors. Candied yams? Sure. You can probably even use dollops of cranberry sauce, sparingly … though you might want to reserve that for a dipping sauce. If you must go green, I’m sure green beans or whatever will work as a topping too. Be creative. This is your chance to use up gobs of leftovers. Just remember one important tip: When you’re done putting on the toppings, pat them down to nestle into those mashed potatoes a bit. If you just sprinkle them on, they’ll fall right off, because unlike cheese, mashed potatoes won’t grab them and hold them in place without a little help.
Now your Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza is ready to cook!
Your oven should be pre-heated to 325 by now. Cooking time, unfortunately, can vary a lot here. You want to go slowly though. Middle rack is best, though if you’ve gone crazy with mashed potatoes and toppings and you’ve got a really thick pizza, you’ll want to get that crust away from the heat a bit more then. But that’s also why we’re going slow, because even if you went sparingly with the mashed potatoes, they’re still a thick ingredient and so you’ll want to take your time to cook through that croissant crust. So basically, you’ve got to use your own judgment here based on what you constructed. And because white turkey meat can really dry out too easily, you may even want to throw a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of your Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza as it cooks to protect the turkey. Whatever you do, I estimate about 20 minutes, but you may want to check at 15, maybe even a mere 10 if you went super-thin somehow. But where’s the fun in that? To test, just use a butter knife to lift the crust from the sheet. If it’s crisped and browned a bit and holds some shape, then you’re good to go. Since that’s the only part of the Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza that should be raw from the start, it’s really the only part that you have to worry about cooking through. The rest you’re basically just reheating.
And there you go. Once your crust is cooked, your Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza is ready! Because it’s a rectangle shape, I tend to just cut out rectangular slices. If you cut them small enough you can eat them with your fingers. If you cooked the croissant crust correctly, it’ll be just a little too soft for big slices that’ll hold up on their own. (But if you don’t mind overcooking the croissant dough, you can make it stiffer for bigger slices. It’ll just lose that lovely flaky soft croissant texture.) Cut them really small and you can serve them as cute little hors d’oeuvres to amaze your friends at a Black Friday party. Or cut them big and drop them onto a plate to eat with knife and fork. It’s all good! And you’ll be wondering why you ever bothered with mere sandwiches for leftovers before.
* Notes for catering/parties: If you are a caterer or throwing a party and looking to serve Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza hors d’oeuvres and you would like to make it in advance and then reheat / keep warm with a warming device, you may want to actually pre-cook the crust by itself and pre-thicken your mashed potatoes and then when the crust has cooled construct your Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza with all cold and fully-cooked ingredients. It’s easier to work with and minimizes any over/under-cooking accidents. If you want to mass-produce Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza for a party you may also want to create a sized form for the mashed potatoes that you can place over a baking sheet set with parchment paper so that you can quickly create the mashed potato layer by spreading the mashed potatoes, pull the form away, sauce it with gravy, set the crust on top of it, lay a baking sheet on top, and then flip it all back to right-side up to save a lot of time and effort.
Here’s a quick review:
Arah’s Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza Recipe
Step 1 – Roll out Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough flat on a non-stick (or greased) cookie sheet for a crust, pinching the seams back together.
Step 2 – Lightly glisten crust with gravy.
Step 3 – Pre-heat oven to 325.
Step 4 – Thicken mashed potatoes and let cool.
Step 5 – Pat down flattened sections of mashed potatoes onto sauced crust. Do not spread.
Step 6 – Top with any leftovers you like. Pat down toppings to anchor into mashed potatoes. If turkey breast meat was used, you may want to cover with foil to protect it from drying out.
Step 7 – Bake at 325 for approximately 20 minutes. Time may vary according to thickness. Test doneness by lifting crust from pan with a knife, looking for light brown and crispness.
Step 8 – Allow to cool for a few minutes so that crust can stiffen before cutting into slices and serving.
Step 9 – Enjoy!