If you have gone to at least one brunch meet-up at a deli, you have most probably tasted and indulged in an Eggs Benedict. Yes, that quintessential brunch menu item that most people think can be traced from English origins. Well, who’s to blame — this elegant and sumptuous dish does sound and look like it comes from that part of the world to some degree, right?
The Anatomy of an Eggs Benedict
The traditional Eggs Benedict is one made up of toasted English muffins, cut in half; each is topped with a slice of ham and a poached egg. The dish is jazzed up with a special Hollandaise sauce — which is a blend of egg yolks, butter, and lemon.
In contemporary times, you can expect a restaurant or a deli to offer this menu item in a slightly different manner (more on this later).
So, Who Invented Eggs Benedict?
Have you ever wondered about the history of this uber-popular dish? Well, you’ll be surprised to know that most culinary experts and historians cite New York City as the birthplace of this meal. Nonetheless, there are three varying accounts of its real origin.
The United States’ first-ever restaurant or public dining place, which opened in the 1860s, claims to be the one who invented the well-loved eggs benny.
In a cookbook published by their chef, Charles Ranhofer (1936-1899), in 1894, there was this recipe called Eggs a’ la Benedick, which can be made by cutting muffins crosswise, toasting them (without allowing them to brown), placing a round of cooked ham (⅛-inch-thick, same diameter as the muffins’), putting a poached egg on each toast, and covering the whole dish with Hollandaise sauce.
A Wall Street broker in the 1890s, this Benedict argues that he “invented” the dish as a hangover meal. At one time during his stay at the Waldorf Hotel in New York, he ordered “some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs, and a hooker of hollandaise sauce.”
The hotel’s chef, the legendary Oscar Tschirky, then decided to add this very meal to their menu, replacing the toasted bread with toasted English muffins; the crisp bacon with Canadian bacon.
Commodore E.C. Benedict
Another New Yorker, this time a banker and a yachtsman, claims it was him who made this dish. However, his version featured a sauce made up of a “hot, hard-cooked egg and ham mixture.”
The theory in which his recipe has been passed down to become the eggs benny we know today, first became known to the public back in 1967 after New York Times food columnist Craig Claiborne received information about this claim.
Ways You Can Do an Eggs Benedict
When you go to a deli, there are actually different types of eggs benny that you can order.
Others replace the ham with corned beef, others add tomato to add more flavor. In some parts of the globe (i.e., Australia) this dish also features a salmon, on top of the ham.
In other versions, the Hollandaise sauce is replaced with a Béchamel. Others spice up the ingredients by adding cheese sauce or spinach.
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