Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dinner at the Improv - Bacon, Chowder, Pizza Pizzazz!

I like to improvise sometimes, which means I just throw things into the pan and wing it. Every once in a while, it is horrible, more often though, it turns out pretty darned well. I wanted to share these improvisations to inspire other cooks who feel comfortable cooking by taste.

For episode two of Dinner at the Improv, I've made Cheesy Sage Corn Chowder and Bacon Ranch Pizza.

Like the rest of the country, it has been ridiculously cold and snowy here in Montana. That means, I want something warm and comforting, without having to spend too much time outside my bed, where I would like to be, covered by every blanket that we own. That means, perfect night for soup and pizza.

This pizza is really less pizza and more fancy bread sticks. I use a store bought can of pizza dough. Spread it out on a sheet pan lined with non-stick foil until the crust is fairly thin, and then slather that in homemade ranch dressing. It is a mix of mayo, sour cream, dried dill, chives, granulated garlic, a touch of onion powder, and some salt and pepper. Over that goes Italian cheese blend to cover, and then 6 slices of crispy bacon (that I baked in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes), crumbled over the top. That bakes according to the directions on the dough canister, for about 10 minutes (according to mine- which was Pillsbury Refrigerated Pizza Crust).

Next, in a large soup pot, I melt 4 tablespoons of butter (that's half a stick in America, usually) and about a tablespoon of sage, to bloom the herbs, which lets out the oils and makes it very fragrant. Once that is bubbly, I add a can of drained premium white corn. Once the corn has warmed a bit, I add 4 tablespoons of flour, let that cook, stirring, until it smells nutty, and add 3-4 cups of chicken stock, a cup at a time, whisking to make it smooth. During this time, I salt and pepper the soup to taste and then let it come up to a boil. 

A few minutes before the pizza is ready, I lower the temperature on the soup to low and add a handful of that Italian cheese blend (cheddar would be great also), about a cup of milk, and a half a cup of heavy cream. I stir that until the cheese is melted, careful not to let it boil once the dairy is added so we don't get a curdled soup, taste, and re-season as needed. It couldn't be much easier.

Then, serve it up in a bowl with crumbled bacon over it, and maybe a little extra cheese if you like, with a slice of the tasty Bacon Ranch Pizza on the side. It's perfect for sopping up the rest of that creamy soup before you have seconds!

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