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Will we ever know where Eggs Benedict came from?

  • By Charlie Browning
  • Published 01/15/2013

In my humble opinion, the Eggs Benedict recipe is right up there when it comes to delicious breakfast treats, especially if the wine has been flowing the night before. But whose idea was it to first combine poached eggs, ham and hollandaise sauce to such devastating effect? Well, there are conflicting opinions on this. They are:

1893: LeGrande Lockwood Benedict and his wife would eat every Saturday at Delmonico’s, which was the city’s first restaurant or ‘public dining room’. Mrs. LeGrand Benedict was tired of the usual fare at the restaurant and said to the maître d’hôtel, “Haven’t you anything new to suggest?” He said he’d like to hear some ideas from her, to which she suggested poached eggs on toasted English muffins with a thin slice of ham and hollandaise sauce, and a truffle on the top. With the help of the Chef Charles Ranhofer this is what she was served, and Mrs LeGrande Benedict’s relatives are adamant this is the recipe which has travelled around the globe.

1894: A hungover Wall Street broker, whose name was Lemuel C. Benedict was having breakfast at the Waldorf Hotel (which was then on the site currently occupied by the Empire State Building). He ordered “buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a hooker of hollandaise.” Oscar Tschirky, the famed maître d’hôtel (who invented the Waldorf Salad and Thousand Island Dressing), was so impressed with the dish that he put it on the breakfast and luncheon menus but substituted ham and a toasted English muffin for the bacon and toast.

So which is more likely to be true? Well it’s actually pretty difficult to get to the bottom of thanks to the lack of first-hand knowledge available from the time. They both seem pretty plausible, but my favourite one is the hungover stockbroker going into the Waldorf and ordering the separate ingredients which would go on to a modern day classic. Next time I’m feeling a bit worse for wear I’m going to have a crack at being creative in my local greasy spoon!

About the Author: Charlie Browning is writing about Eggs Benedict recipe



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