Leftovers Fit for a King

Well it was a memorable holiday with the extended Pastry family up in French Lick, Indiana (no snickering, you in the back!). What, you mean you’ve never heard of French Lick, Indiana? It’s only the home town of Larry Bird, one of the greatest NBA players of all time. It also happens to be the site of some legendary sulfur springs, which have attracted the curious and the infirmed for some 170 years. Of course to house a legendary spa, you need a legendary hotel, and the French Lick Springs Hotel is certainly that. Or shall I say it was, then it wasn’t, then recently it became so again. For the French Lick Springs Hotel and its sister establishment the West Baden Springs Hotel fell on tough times after World War II. The West Baden Hotel, which was built in 1901, was hit especially hard, and in fact closed for some 60 years. Which was a pity, since its atrium was, until the Houston Astrodome was built, the largest free-standing dome in the world. Happily, thanks to a hundred million dollars’ worth of renovation, it has this year reopened, and is truly something to behold. A soaring dome of I-beams and rivets, encircled by 250 rooms. Talk about the perfect spot to meet the family for a stress-free holiday, this place was it.

It had everything. Pools, lounges, game rooms, bowling lanes, buggy rides, shops, gardens, and of course a variety of places to eat. One of these, contained in the French Lick Hotel, was a pizza joint called Pluto’s, operated by a Brooklyn transplant whose New York-style pie is the best I’ve eaten outside of the five boroughs. The family hit the joint for lunch on Thanksgiving day, which turned out to be fortuitous, for among the expected offerings of pepperoni and mushrooms…

…was, hello, what’s this?

If you can guess just by looking at it, you’ve got a better nose for culinary oddity than I. For it is nothing less than a turkey and dressing pizza, made especially for the holiday. Totally weird, and totally good. While I stood there agog, wondering how anyone could have thought up such a thing, my astute sister thought to ask how it was made. And here I am to tell you the secret of the turkey dinner pizza, possibly the most ingenious method of using up holiday dinner leftovers ever conceived.

The crustless wonder starts of course with dressing, which must, the baker emphasized, be cold. To that a little raw egg is added as a binder before it’s pressed into a deep-dish pan lined with parchment. Next goes shredded turkey, a few miscellaneous vegetables (cubed carrots or peas) a ladle of gravy, and a sprinkling of Fontina cheese. Finally a thin second layer of cold dressing goes on before the whole thing is baked in a 350 oven for about 45 minutes. The pie is then turned upside down out of the pan and sprinkled with parseley and parmesan. Voila!

If I ever go back to preparing a Thanksgiving dinner (instead of just going back to French Lick every year and letting them do it) this is how I’ll eat my leftovers from now on.

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