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~HISstory vs HERstory -- The Story of Eggs Benedict~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c76dd85e970b 2A la Benedict.  It means in-the-style-of eggs Benedict.  For runny-egg lovers, this is the la-tee-da, ooh-la-la, creme-de-la-creme of fancy-schmancy, artery-clogging AM indulgences:  two golden-toasted English muffin halves, each topped with a slice of smoky ham, a perfectly poached egg and a generous drizzle of buttery hollandaise sauce.  This all-American breakfast and brunch specialty has been gracing the tables of high-end restaurants for over a century.  There are three claims to this beloved dish's origin, with only one being widely-accepted as the real-deal.

Culinary Fisticuffs?  The Battle Between the Benedicts!!!  

HISstory vs. HERstory:  

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0811448a970dThanks to a food article appearing in the New York Times Magazine in 1967, written by the late, great NYT Food Editor Craig Claiborne, American foodies were led to believe this dish was French in origin, invented by the mother of French Commodore E.C. Benedict. Mr. Claiborne reported this to us shortly after receiving a letter from Edward P. Montgomery, an American living in France, who claims to have gotten the recipe via his uncle who was a friend of the Commodore.  Edward, it seems, had just forgotten about it for forty-some odd years.  HISstory.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08114846970dIn a rather immediate, scathing response to Mr. Claiborne's article, a woman named Mabel Butler sent her own letter to the New York Times Magazine, basically calling Mr. Montgomery a fraud and a liar, because she knew EXACTLY who invented the now famous dish.  Ms. Butler, a relative of Mrs. LeGrand Benedict went on to say:  It was invented in the kitchen of Manhattan's famous Delmonico's Restaurant when Mr. and Mrs. Benedict (two wealthy, influential patrons who dined weekly at Delmonico's) complained to the maitre d'Hotel that the chef never added anything new to the brunch menu.  Upon their next visit, the chef responded to them in a very LeGrand way:  two golden-toasted English muffin halves, each topped with a slice of smoky ham, a perfectly poached egg, a drizzle of buttery hollandaise and topped with a shaving of musky truffle.

Enter the Party-of-the-Third-Part & voila:  the REALastoria:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0811bfa9970d 10.41.07 AMIt seems that a wealthy, elderly gentleman, Lemual Benedict, a retired Wall Street Stock Broker, had done an earlier interview with the New Yorker Magazine, in 1942, which appeared in their "Talk of the Town" column.  In it, he confesses to having drunkenly stumbled into NYC's Waldorf Astoria in need of a good fix for a bad hangover.  As Benedict explains,  "back in 1894", he ordered buttered toast, poached eggs, bacon and a "hooker" of hollandaise (slang for a "shot glass").  Oscar Tschirky, the maitre d'Hotel of the Waldorf found the combination to be so delicious, he added it to his menu the same year, substituting ham for the bacon and an English muffin for the toast.  In his 1896 cookbook, The Cookbook of the Waldorf, chef Tschirky writes of a twist on the dish, which he named "Philadelphia Eggs", in which poached chicken is served in place of the ham.

As eggs Benedict gained in popularity, chef's began taking quite a bit of creative license with inventive, palate-pleasing spin-offs -- as they should, because the dish is so user-friendly and adaptable.  My favorite is eggs Oscar: crabmeat with a layer of blanched asparagus.  If I sprinkle the same dish with Old Bay, the name changes to eggs Chesapeake.  Eggs Hemmingway means it's served with smoked salmon in place of ham, and, eggs Florentine a layer of steamed spinach gets added.  If I order Eggs Blackstone, I'll get bacon and fresh tomato.  Several sauces can be substituted for the hollandaise too:  bearnaise (hollandaise containing shallot and tarragon), mornay (cheese sauce), and, blanchard (bechamel).

Try my Over-the-Top but Very Easy Eggs Benedict recipe:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c76dd85e970b 2Try my Exquisite Crabmeat Stuffed Omelette a la Benedict too:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0812ab20970d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)


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