When we lived in Oak Park, IL, when we were young and alive, when we didn’t have enough money to take the train downtown to Chicago, I stood next to the continental divide sign, legs spread wide, imagining I was standing on two magnets pulling water to opposite ends of our coasts. Would I spilt in two like the water? Turns out I’m not that malleable. Not nearly as malleable as a recipe. We’re straddling two seasons right now, standing in muddy, dead grass with glints of green over a slice of Butternut Bánh Mì Pizza, between winter and spring.
This Butternut Bánh Mì Pizza is comprised of bits of both seasons. The hardy butternut squash turns into a sweet and smoky chipotle sauce. Springy radishes are split thin and soaked in vinegar, turning pinker than an Easter egg. Limes and green onions stand in as signs of life, if not in Minnesota then in California.
It’s also compromised of leftovers from my fridge—leftover pulled beef, puréed butternut squash, and pickled radishes. I call this game Leftovers Tetris, which is one of my favorite games next to Dishwasher Tetris (the only two games I can smoke Kev in). The game goes like this. You take leftover Chipotle Butternut Sauce from this recipe and leftover pickled radishes from that recipe and leftover humble chuck roast from The Minimalist Kitchen and turn it into something entirely new, a Butternut Bánh Mì Pizza. It’s also a game of emptying out the fridge completely by Sunday. I seem to be winning this week.
In parenthood, they tell you to turn things like cleaning or brushing teeth into a game instead of a fight. Trickery, you know? It works on adults, too. Especially adults straddling dinnertime and deadlines, grocery budgets and aging produce, early spring and late winter. And it tastes like a Butternut Bánh Mì Pizza. But don’t tell anyone you made it from leftovers.
This is one of those non-recipes. Use this recipe as a guide. Start with your favorite homemade or store-bought pizza crusts, top with olive oil, cheese, prepared beef. Then garnish with all the traditional Bánh Mì toppings. I like to make this pizza when all the ingredients are present in the fridge, when I have leftover butternut squash, pickled radishes, and a roast. Otherwise, this can be a bit clunky to make in one sitting.
Use your favorite homemade or store-bought recipes
Make bánh mì beef. Into a small sauce pan or skillet, add all the beef ingredients over medium heat. Cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.
Assemble pizza. Brush the entire crust generously with olive oil and coat with mozzarella. Sprinkle beef over pizza. Bake until bubbly according to pizza crust recipe instructions.
Top with remaining bánh mì toppings, garnishing as desired. Squirt or drizzle generously with butternut sauce. Serve hot and squeeze with lime.
*Feel free to use leftover pulled chicken or pork. I used the Humble Chuck Roast recipe in The Minimalist Kitchen. You can also take this vegetarian by using jackfruit. (I haven’t worked with jackfruit yet, but I have a can in my pantry that I will be testing soon.)