Divided BY Chowder

Celebrating Chef George's 25th Anniversary on PBS

If there is one thing I have learned as a chef there as many versions of chowder recipes as there are people who enjoy this soup, err..I mean stew..no I think soup?  

George Hirsch Chowder

Each of my cookbooks and TV series has a version of some sort of a chowder recipe. I have judged chowder contests, participated in chef chowder tastings, and been a referee at a few chowder-boxing matches. Well, not really, but people do get heated up over red or white chowder. 

What really is chowder? The word "chowder" comes from the French word chaudiere, or caldron, the vessel in which the dish was cooked. And, derives from the word "jowter," meaning fishmonger, a term that was used in 16th century coastal regions of England.

George Hirsch Seafood

Is it a soup or stew? Early versions of chowder simmered from the New England area and was basically a frugal recipe of pork fat, onions, potatoes, fish, herbs, dry biscuits or flour for thickening, layered in a pot and cooked in water, with a little milk added at the end. In the 1800’s the Manhattan clam chowder was notable because it contains tomatoes. James Beard described Manhattan clam chowder "that rather horrendous soup called Manhattan clam chowder resembles a vegetable soup that accidentally had some clams dumped into it." All respect Mr. Beard, but those are fighting words. As a New Yorker and from coastal Long Island, an East Ender we take our chowder VERY serious. See, how a discussion on chowder can turn into a sparring match.

Tomato-based clam chowders came about with the newfound popularity of the tomato in the mid-1800s with the large population of Italians and Portuguese in New York and Rhode Island region. Still, there is no chowder harmony. In 1939, Maine legislators introduced a bill outlawing the use of tomatoes in chowder because it is far more of a vegetable soup. What? 

I can end this entire soup divide right now. Aside from any vegetables, corn, chicken or other non-seafarer ingredient for the stew--here are three versions you can enjoy from my TV series and cookbooks. They have satisfied many and with hope can prevent a nation from future chowder conflict. 

Manhattan vs. New England Chowder N.E. not my fav..

Seafood Chowder Yes, now this is a stew!

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Easter Muffin

The Blueberry Muffin is the most popular muffin; and with Easter this weekend my Blueberry Nut Muffins are ideal to serve for breakfast or include in your Easter Brunch. Make-n-bake in under an hour; double the recipe and bake a dozen for friends or take to the office. 

No sweat if fresh blueberries are in season in your neighborhood; a good quality frozen berry will do just fine.

Tip: Stock up your freezer with summer blueberries for recipes just like this. Just store whole fresh berries in a sealed plastic storage bags for up to six months. 

Tip: Did you know? Tossing blueberries with flour before adding them to the batter will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin during baking.

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Blueberry Nut Muffins

Recipe by George Hirsch | Makes 10-12 muffins

For the topping:

1/3 cup lite brown sugar

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoons nuts, walnuts or pecans, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1 Tablespoon sweet butter

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nuts. Blend butter in with a fork until mixture is crumb like.

For the muffin mix:

1/2 cup sweet butter, room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon flour for coating blueberries, plus greasing muffin cups

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups fresh blueberries

1 cup pure cane granulated sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 cup milk

Grease a regular size 12-cup muffin pan with butter and dust with flour, banging out excess flour; or use muffin cups liners.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. 

In a separate bowl use a mixer to cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and orange zest to beaten eggs, then add eggs one at a time, mixing until eggs are absorbed. 

With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture and milk in three stages, mixing until all are incorporated.  Do not over mix. 

Toss blueberries in a fine strainer with about one Tablespoon of flour to lightly coat. Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1 1/2 cups of the blueberries. With an ice cream scoop or large spoon, place batter into muffin cups filling each cup to three quarters full. Add remaining 1/2 cup of blueberries on top of the muffins and divide crumb topping over muffins.  

Bake about 25-30 minutes, until muffins are golden brown. Check muffins half way through and rotate if oven temperature is uneven. Test with a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin and it should come out clean; or when touched lightly the muffin should have a slight resistance to finger pressure.  

Remove from oven and allow muffins to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from pan.