Thanksgiving is one of my three favorite holidays. There is nothing better than to gather those that I love around the dining room table (and the living room table and the kitchen table… as the group grows and grows) to enjoy the fall harvest and to give thanks for our many blessings. For many years now, my family has divided up the task of Thanksgiving, each putting all their creative juices into one or two dishes. My husband and I typically host the event and I love stuffing, so the turkey with all the trimmings has become our annual contribution to the feast. I tend to be obsessive about my food and will spend the couple days prior to Thanksgiving getting all the ingredients prepped and ready for their big show. And then we eat. And then it is over.
Except for all those wonderful leftovers.
If we are going to attach labels to people in my family, then I would be ‘the cook’ and my brother, Tom, would be ‘the baker.’ He makes ciabatta rolls that are light and airy yet subtly chewy. He makes bagels that are densely delicious. And his pizza dough is lovingly crafted and even more lovingly enjoyed. Even my picky children will always choose his as their favorite pizza.
Another thing to know about my family is that we love our traditions. A ritual that is born out of inspiration, is enjoyed by all and quickly becomes something we look forward to again and again. That is how I feel about Thanksgiving Pizza. When planning this year’s meal, I was looking forward to, not only to all those delicious sides, but also their conversion into Uncle Tom’s famous Thanksgiving Pizza.
This was a tradition that started only last year. After welcoming Santa (who arrives by boat!) and witnessing the lighting of a magnificent Christmas tree at the local resortdown the road, we all came home cold and hungry. Within minutes my brother had gently molded his stretchy, yeasty dough into rustic pizza circles. The children’s cheese pizza, with its rich tomato sauce and bubbly cheese was the first to be brought forth. Then came the first Thanksgiving Pizza, topped with a base of gravy, chunks of succulent turkey and spoonfuls of leftover stuffing. Aaaahhhh…
But my favorite, and the one that I have been longing for all year, was the one made with leftover sweet potatoes. My mom usually takes on the sweet potatoes. While the traditional marshmallows keep their distance, she does experiment with different variations of this fall root vegetable. Last year’s creation included chunks of sweet potato mixed with apples and a maple syrup glaze. The dish was delicious the first day… but the second day on top of a Thanksgiving Pizza was pure heaven. My brother made a base with cream cheese, a dab of sugar and a squirt of lemon juice. He whipped it so it spread easily on the pizza crust and then topped it with chunks of the sweet potato/apple mixture, spinach and goat cheese. The creation that came forth from that oven was something so deliciously wonderful, full of Pacific NW fall splendor.
While Thanksgiving is the formal celebration, where everybody has a seat at the table, dishes are passed and glasses are clinked, I have to admit I look forward to the night after with just as much anticipation. Hot, steamy pizzas are brought out of the oven one by one. Hands reach for slices as soon as they are cut. Everyone stands around the kitchen enjoying a variety of fall tastes. The chatter becomes a steady din, punctuated only by a burst of laughter. The wine is passed. The merriment continues long into the night. And the holiday season begins.
Uncle Tom’s Pizza Dough
Preheat the oven to 450°. When you turn the oven on, put the pizza stone in, so that both oven and stone have time to get really hot.