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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Manhattan vs. New England Chowder 

This weekend’s Super Bowl XLVI brings on yet another reason to gather, party and entertain. This year there is so much anticipation waiting for the re-match on Gameday. Although I may feel a sense of team loyalty towards one of the teams, I have good friends rooting for the Giants and New England. Today I am prepared to make all the fans happy.

New York is known as a melting pot of food culture with its strong ethnic roots, while New England may scream fish at first thought, but today its core is just as robust in ethnic foods as NYC. So with this in mind, I've taken two very popular chowders representing each team. 

Make them both, serve separately; or mix them fifty-fifty—I have named this chowder-mixture a Hoosier Chowder in honor of Indiana the host city. Either way, they’re both delicious and winners!

For A Winning Gameday Menu

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Manhattan Chowder

Makes 6-8 servings | From Grilling with Chef George Hirsch Cookbook

1 Tablespoon olive oil

8 cloves caramelized garlic

1/4 cup sweet onion

1/2 cup each celery & carrots, red bell peppers, chopped

2 cups yukon potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 pieces 

2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon basil

1 bay leaf

1 cup tomato sauce

2 cups tomatoes, seeded and chopped or 1 (28 ounce can chopped tomatoes)

2 cups chicken broth

1 pint clams with juice, chopped

1 teaspoon hot sauce

fresh ground pepper to taste 

Add olive oil to preheated soup pot. Saute onions, celery, peppers, garlic and carrots until tender. Add potatoes, paprika, thyme, basil and bay leaf. Add tomato sauce and tomatoes, chicken broth and hot sauce.  Bring to a boil.  Lower to simmer and add clams. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Add fresh ground black pepper to taste & serve immediately. 

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New England Cod Chowder

Makes 6-8 servings | Adapted From Grilling with Chef George Hirsch Cookbook

2 pounds cod, diced into 1/2-inch cubes; or 1 pint clams with juice, chopped

1/4 pound salt pork or slab bacon, chopped fine

2 large sweet onions, diced small

4 cups yukon potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

4 cups fish broth, or clam juice or combination chicken broth 

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 cup heavy cream or half and half

2 Tablespoons sweet butter

Cook the salt pork in a large soup pot until it gives up all it's fat and remove pieces. Add the onion and cook until it begins to turn a very light brown - but do not over brown. Add the potato and broth and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the cod and cook for 5 minutes or until fully cooked.  Stir in the cream, hot sauce, parsley, and pepper. Whisk in butter and serve immediately. 

Hoosier Chowder

Prepare both chowders. To serve, mix half & half of Manhattan + New England Chowders into preheated bowls and stir.  

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