An Experiment in Recipe Synthesis: The Thanksgiving Pie

When we were throwing around the idea of ‘an entire Thanksgiving dinner baked into a pie’ in class, I laughed and appreciated the ridiculousness along with the rest of my baking buddies. But something about the idea took root in that part of my brain where thoughts like ‘how awesome would it be to make a  giant kit-kat bar’ and ‘I wonder if you can take cats for walks?’ flourish. Or it might have been the fact that I missed the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, green vegetables, something orange, and pie Thanksgiving while I was away in Turkey. Either way, the idea stuck, and even though no recipe for this existed online yet, I was not going to let that stop me.

First, I had to do a bit of research. That meant looking up every vaguely related recipe to this concept and picking up ideas from them. The first mockup of my internal schema for the grand design for this pie contained a layer of bacon mac & cheese. Upon consultation with my idea guy (read: girlfriend), that part was shot down as the flavor could be too overpowering in relation to the others, it could make the pie soggy, and layers of filling was something to be avoided, if at all possible. Onto Step 2…

I found the perfect approximation of what I wanted for my pie here. Unfortunately, they did not also offer a recipe. So, it was back to the drawing board to create my own. After viewing a few more recipes, I decided on the following concept:

  • A butter and shortening crust that would include craisins, savory herbs, and a bit of chicken stock baked in.
  • A filling consisting largely of mashed potatoes, with the other ingredients suspended within. (An excellent recipe can be found here).
  • Turkey, green beans, and sweet potatoes all simmered in a bit of stock, then mixed into the mashed potatoes.
  • A crumb-top crust of cornbread stuffing for the upper layer.
  • A bit of brown gravy to be poured over each slice upon serving.

Basically, doing that worked! The following is a series of pictures I took while baking that idea into life:
*Note: The measurements as well as rough directions are listed in the recipe section of this post.

[The Crust, while it was cooling in the fridge; note the the Cranberries]

[The Mashed Potatoes]

[The Green Beans, Turkey, and Sweet Potatoes stew; note the small bit of thick Gravy]

[The previous two items combined; this will be the Filling]

[Raw Pie with Filling]

[Raw Pie with Filling and Cornbread Stuffing Crumb Coat]

[Freshly Baked Thanksgiving Pie]

[Brown Gravy to Serve with the Pie]

[Cross-Sectional View of the Finished Product]

Reflections: This experiment turned out pretty great, actually! I was a little worried that the crust would be too soggy, especially after a lot of it kept sticking to my utensils as well as the wax paper, but good flakiness was achieved. Next time I try the Vodka Trick, I think I’ll use slightly less liquid, haha. Other than that, another thing I might try differently is to not put in the filling and top crumb coat crust and leave it overnight. Perhaps doing both right before baking it in the oven would have achieved a flakier crust. Either way, it worked out, and the pie tasted delicious!

Thanksgiving Dinner Pie

  • Prep time:
  • Cook time:
  • Total time:
  • Yield: ~10
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Recipe type: Entree


  • 1 Basic Flaky Crust with Butter and Vegetable Shortening
  • – Add a cup of finely slivered Cranberries to this mixture
  • – Add a few teaspoons of dry Rosemary and Thyme, to taste
  • – Use 1/4 cup of Chicken Stock and 1/4 cup of Vodka
  • 1.5 lb.s of cooked turkey (if cooked turkey is not available, just boil some in stock with your favorite herbs and spices)
  • 1.5 lb.s of Mashed potatoes
  • 1 Sweet Potato, diced
  • 0.5 lb.s of frozen Green Beans
  • 1 cup of Brown Gravy (packaged is fine)
  • 2.5 cups of a Cornbread Stuffing (again, packaged is fine)
  • Also use various amounts of these, as needed:
  • Chicken Stock
  • Butter
  • Water
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Cream
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder


  1. First, create the crust as you would an ordinary crust. Be sure to account for the extra dry mass of the cranberries and herbs.
  2. Then, make the mashed potatoes – set aside.
  3. After, make the green beans, turkey, and sweet potatoes stew – try to simmer off most of the liquid from it so the gravy is thick and clings to the food items.
  4. Mix (don’t mash!) the mashed potatoes with the food mixture so that pieces of turkey, green beans, and mashed potatoes come into every bite; it should turn a light orange color.
  5. Next, make the stuffing.
  6. Finally, after rolling out the pie onto the plate, add the turkey, veggies, and potatoes filling, ontop of which should go a layer of stuffing so that none of the filling underneath is visible.
  7. Pop that sucker in the oven for about 40 minutes to bake at 375°, and voila, you have Thanksgiving Dinner in a Pie!
  8. Remember to serve each slice with a healthy smattering of warm brown gravy _\m/.

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