Pizza Lab #5: Thanksgiving Pizza
Pizza Lab is a fun theoretical column in which Meg A. and Erik S. explore their innermost passion for baking and eating pizzas. It exists purely for the sake of experimenting in the kitchen. It may not necessarily be cost-effective everytime, so don’t try this at home kids.
A while back on a podcast me and my friends operated, we all joked around about making a pizza for Thanksgiving. No one took it seriously. Fast-forward six months and now that pie is a reality thanks to the magic of Pizza Lab. “But Erik!”, you say, “It’s totally the beginning of freaking Summer!” you say. My reply to that is simple. Turkey is good, and gravy is magical. We shouldn’t feel guilty about partaking in such delight. So perhaps that’s the greatest merit in designing a Thanksgiving pizza, it allows you to combine all the best foods of November into one place, and not have to feel bad about doing so. Oh wait no, the greatest merit of this pizza is that it tastes fucking amazing.
Erik S. I can’t say I’ve had an overwhelming number of truly great ideas for as long as I’ve lived, but for once in my life I came up with something I could truly be proud of. It’s gonna be hard for me to top Thanksgiving Pizza. Really. That’s it, I’ve peaked at the age of 24. …I had a good run I suppose.
Meg A. It’s still better than Olympic gymnasts who peak when they’re like, 10. You had a good extra decade on them.
Erik S. Joking aside, it was a very successful pizza to say the least.
Meg A. And a nice mid-year mini-Thanksgiving to hold us out ’til the real deal. Much like Christmas in July, I think Thanksgiving in May could become a thing.
Erik S. It’s interesting to think theoretically it was several months in the making, due to the fact it required turkey meat. Somehow it took at least two month for me to select a night on which I could actually make a turkey breast despite it not being rocket science.
Meg A. Yeah, I think we were originally going to do the Thanksgiving pizza before strawberry shortcake, but didn’t have the turkey?
Erik S. Well no, I already had one turkey breast in the freezer. That’s the kicker. Just somehow, cooking a turkey went from a random dinner selection to something I ended up having to plan a week in advance.
Meg A. Well, it finally got made, so that’s the important part.
From the get go it was decided that real, whole turkey breast was the only option here. I’ve seen Thanksgiving Day wraps in restaurants before that use deli meat turkey in them, and they always taste rather lackluster as a result. I don’t see any real conflict here for restaurants either, since turkeys are readily slaughtered and eaten year round. You can buy boneless skinless turkey breast in the same manner as chicken breast, so what’s the problem here? Probably laziness, yeah, but we here at PCFG are far from lazy (well at least one of our staff isn’t), and wouldn’t compromise. Whole turkey breast it was.
As you read via blockquote already, this caused some issues however. Namely, that I personally had a turkey breast in my possession for at least two months, ready to be prepared for dinner, however I was unable to batten down and select a night on which to make it. Of course the charitable, right thing to do would be to try and save it for a special occasion, such as a nice family dinner, but eh. I tried, really I did. That’s the reason this turkey ended up taking two months to finally get made, instead of sitting in the freezer like some sort of underappreciated cadaver. So it was recently that I simply said “Fuck this, I want turkey” and defrosted it, only to make it the next night for small non-family dinner for three people total. The upside? Plenty of leftovers, and no scrutiny as to how much meat each person could have. The downside? I don’t know, possibly some sort of moral ramifications surrounding the obligation to eat turkey as a big, fancy occasion? Who the hell cares. Turkey is good, let’s eat it whenever the fuck we want.
Oh also here’s a picture of the gravy I made. Despite it looking like a twice-regurgitated dog food/dog shit combination, it came out perfectly. The lesson here is to never photograph gravy when it’s fresh cold out of the refrigerator.
Erik S. I believe the original idea for a Thanksgiving pizza came up as a joke in an early episode of my old blog’s podcast. But that was months before Pizza Lab even existed.
Meg A. Interesting…
Erik S. Back then it was nothing more than the inane ramblings of some slightly buzzed podcasters over Skype. Now, I’d like to think it’s a major milestone in both of our lives.
Meg A. Hahaha. So you made the turkey and gravy for dinner a few nights before the pizza lab. I wasn’t there for that part… did you use any special seasonings for the turkey, or just usual turkey stuff? I did taste it before it went on the pizza and it was good on its own.
Erik S. Not that I recall. Plain old boring stuff like paprika and herbes de provence. Also, I feel like an amazing food snob for describing herbes de provence as boring, haha.
Meg A. Well you are a food snob so…
Erik S. You’re right I can do better than that. Ahem, the spices I ended up using were quite pedestrian. How’s that?
Meg A. …Better.
After piecing the turkey and setting it onto the dough with some gravy, the next thing on the list of Thanksgiving ingredients to obtain would be cranberries. Being the middle of May, for whatever reason it was virtually impossible to find whole, fresh cranberries. I’m aware they’re not in season, but then again you don’t see a lot of peach trees growing in the dead of winter now do you. Regardless (and depressingly) the next best thing ended up being some shitty can of trash jelly sauce, with sorta pieces of whole cranberry in it. The worst part about all that is that the can straight up tells you it’s whole cranberries inside. Assholes.
Meg A. So the rest of the toppings we bought/made the day of pizza lab. We bought boxed cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce and cheese. We should take a moment to discuss how ridiculously hard it is to find cranberries outside of real Thanksgiving time…
Erik S. Oh God, don’t get me started. What is it about cranberries that makes them nonexistent prior to the month of November? We live in a day and age where you have access to EVERY fruit regardless of whether it’s in season, locally.
I have access to every bit of information that has ever existed, in a device that fits in my pocket. But I can’t have cranberries in Springtime? What happened to this country!
Meg A. Cranberries are a fucking superfruit… they should be available year-round at least in frozen form. It’s ridiculous. “Here’s a fruit that can help keep it from burning when you pee. But hah-hah! You can only find it 3 months a year.”
Erik S. Those poor sufferers of urinary tract infection…
Meg A. Maybe it’s a conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies… it’s still cool to blame big pharmaceutical companies for stuff right?
Erik S. Marginally. But we’re on to them, now.
Meg A. You and me will have to start growing cranberries to counteract. We’ll have Thanksgiving year round, and always enjoy peeing.
The last piece of the Thanksgiving puzzle? Stuffing obviously. Or as I like to put it, “herbed bread pieces shoved into the hollowed out asshole of a dead game bird.” Not as appetizing, but far more accurate. Box stuffing, in my honest opinion, is one of those food products that you can definitely get away with buying pre-made from the store, and have it almost taste good as if from scratch. Yes, homemade stuffing is by far the tastier choice, but it’s also the choice that requires hours of culinary work, as compared to 5 minutes of boiling water. The tradeoff is worth it. For the pizza, we selected cornbread stuffing, to help it stand out a little from the pizza dough, since there’s nothing particularly appealing about topping bread on top of more bread. (Unless you have a bread fetish. Which even I’d consider moderately disturbing, considering that yeast infections are a thing.) The prepared stuffing was loaded onto the pizza dough, with gravy in tow, to join the layer of turkey.
Erik S. Interestingly enough, the America’s Choice box stuffing turned out pretty good for something that literally came from a box.
Meg A. Yeah, it was pretty tasty. Though to be honest I’ve yet to actually encounter a bad stuffing…*snickers*
Erik S. Our biggest fears in the planning phase was that putting bread on top of bread would just make a big, bland mess of starch just like the Disco Fries pizza.
Meg A. Yeah. Well we tried to keep the stuffing layer fairly thin, which helped. For the Disco Fries pizza the fries were pretty much the main part, so therefore we needed a lot of them. On this pizza there was enough other flavors we could go a bit lighter on the starchy one. It certainly helps we were able to slather it in delicious, homemade gravy as well.
Erik S. That too.
Meg A. Not to mention we had a more limited supply of gravy for the Disco Fries pizza, whereas this time we had a, I believe the term you used was, “swimming pool of gravy”.
Erik S. Well, it was a pretty big container… And I’m sure both of us are more than okay with the mental image of owning a swimming pool filled with gravy.
Meg A. Oh yes. It would be next to my swimming pool filled with pudding, which we established I’d own due to my love of pudding in the previous pizza lab.
Erik S. Our house is gonna have sooo many flies buzzing around it.
Next up was where we would be putting sliced cranberries, in the style of tomatoes, onto the pie. But instead we had to fish around the can of lies we had just purchased at the store. With hung heads and condescending eye rolls, we did our best to scramble together the pieces of translucent, purple sludge which most closely resembled pieces of cranberry.
Now one discussion that came up in planning was the question of what cheese to use. Generally, there’s no official cheese of Thanksgiving, as far as I know (though if I’m wrong, I’ll be incredibly pissed off that I missed a memo somewhere). We have lots of oarther foods that are synonymous with the holiday, but cheese is sort of a free for all. On one hand, cheese wasn’t even truly necessary considering the number of other flavors and foods on the pie, but at the same time, it’s a pizza. It kinda needs cheese on it, as a rule. Swiss was one consideration, due to the fact turkey and Swiss is a popular combination. Cheddar was also discussed because, hey, it’s fcheddar. In the end, we settled on mozzarella due to its light, light taste but viability as a food glue for the entire pie. With so many foods and flavors going on, an additional cheese flavor wasn’t that necessary, however cheese holding everything together would be a welcome addition.
Erik S. Overall, I think it’s fairly obvious I was in love with this pizza from the first bite.
Meg A. Oh, yeah, I thought I was going to have to leave you alone with it for a bit.
Erik S. I almost needed to. Swallowing was a euphoric experience. The kind a human being waits for their entire life. I’m convinced that this pizza could cure severe depression. Instantly. Everyone should experience it.
Meg A. Well, except for people with Celiac disease…
Erik S. Also, it could also cure Celiac.
Meg A. Oh cool, I didn’t realize.
Erik S. And if we put enough cranberries on, it could cure UTIs as well.
Meg A. Miracle pizza! We should keep this underwraps…don’t want the man coming after us…
Erik S. Other than the aforementioned minor lack of cranberries, I’d say this pie was near flawless.
Meg A. This was also one of the neatest to eat pizzas we’ve made so far.
Erik S. Surprisingly, yes. Despite the mass quantities of food stacked on top of it, it congealed very nicely.
If you haven’t gathered by now, the pizza was a smashing success. It was exquisite, easy to eat, and tasted exactly like what you’d imagine it would. Each bite is Thanksgiving dinner combined into one mouthful. I’m sounding so pretentious right now, but I can’t help it. It was that good. The right balance of salty savory goodness from the gravy and stuffing, with that delicious sweetness the (sorta) cranberries add. Great texture added in from the pieces of turkey. Overall, there was very little to complain about, here.
Meg A. The only criticism I had were the peppercorns in the gravy. I don’t mind pepper, but too often I found myself biting directly into a peppercorn and having it kind of destroy any other flavors in the mouth at the time.
Erik S. In fairness, my mother put them into the gravy while I was out on an ambulance call. Which incidentally preempted my ability to eat the turkey dinner I spent all day cooking. Big thanks to the asshole who overdosed on heroine. I really appreciate it.
Meg A. We should have saved a slice for him, it could have cured him of his addiction…
Erik S. Nonetheless, the pizza overall was delicious.
Meg A. Yes it was. A big success.
Erik S. It’s by far my favorite Pizza Lab so far.
Meg A. I liked it a lot… it’s definitely near the top of the list for me.
Erik S. I think the one thing to take away from this, is that Thanksgiving is awwwesome. That, and don’t do heroine at dinner time.