Before bottomless brunch on the Lower East Side, NYC’s elite were feasting on Eggs Benedict.
But what came first, the Benedictines or the Benedict?
The popular brunch dish has hazy origins, with a number of Benedicts claiming to be ancestors of the original hangover dish.
Delmonico’s believes the dish was created for a pair of regular diners, Mr. and Mrs. LeGrand Benedictine, who reported to be bored with the regular menu circa the 1860s.
“The Delmonico brothers were notorious for naming dishes after their customers,” explains current Delmonico chef Billy Oliva. The restaurant even renamed Lobster Newburg from Lobster Wenberg when the dish’s original namesake fought with manager Charles Delmonico.
The Benedictines must have tipped nicely (or something like that) to keep the attribution with the original dish, cooked for them with cured ham, poached eggs and topped with Hollandaise sauce.
“It’s just a good combination, it’s very rich and it’s a good hangover food,” said Oliva on the dish’s lasting popularity. “It’s also tricky to make so it’s an item that people don’t want to try at home and they order it out.”
But the history of Eggs Benedict cracks more shells.
In 1942, ‘New Yorker’ ran a ‘Talk of the Town’ piece reporting that retired Wall Street stock broker Lemuel Benedict had inspired Eggs Benedict after a visit to the Waldorf Hotel in 1894. Reportedly made with “buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and a hooker of Hollandaise” to cure a bad hangover, this dish sounds a lot like the one Mrs. LeGrand Benedict was such a fan of at DelMonico’s.
While recipes attributing various kitchens to the origin of this eponymous dish have been published for over a century, a 2007 ‘New York Times’ article says it best: “Eggs Benedict is a mystery rooted in a long-vanished version of New York.”
Dominique Ansel may forever be attributed with the creation of the Cronut, but with a city as fast-passed and brunch savvy as New York, we can see how this ever-changing, ever-popular dish has a yolky history.
Celebrate National Eggs Benedict Day on Thursday, April 16th!