In an interview in the "Talk of the Town" column of The New Yorker in 1942, the year before his death, Lemuel Benedict, a retired Wall Street stock broker, claimed that he had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894 and, hoping to find a cure for his morning hangover, ordered "buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and a Hooker of hollandaise." Oscar Tschirky, the maître d'hôtel and legendary "Oscar of the Waldorf," 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.
Craig Claiborne, in September 1967, wrote a column in The New York Times Magazine about a letter he had received from Edward P. Montgomery, an American then residing in France. In it, Montgomery related that the dish was created by Commodore E.C. Benedict, a banker and yachtsman, who died in 1920 at the age of 86. Montgomery also included a recipe for eggs Benedict, stating that the recipe had been given to him by his mother, who had received it from her brother, who was a friend of the Commodore.
Mabel C. Butler of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts in a November 1967 letter printed in The New York Times Magazine responded to Montgomery's claim by correcting that the "true story, well known to the relations of Mrs. Le Grand Benedict", of whom she was one, was:
Mr. and Mrs. Benedict, when they lived in New York around the turn of the century, dined every Saturday at Delmonico's. One day Mrs. Benedict said to the maitre d' hotel, "Haven't you anything new or different to suggest?" On his reply that he would like to hear something from her, she suggested poached eggs on toasted English muffins with a thin slice of ham, hollandaise sauce and a truffle on top.
However, the most likely origin of the dish is suggested in Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, where she describes a traditional French dish named œufs bénédictine, consisting of brandade (a puree of refreshed salt cod and potatoes), spread on triangles of fried bread. A poached egg is then set on top and napped with hollandaise. Still, it is not clear how this dish would have migrated to America, where it became popular. The combination of cod and eggs suggests it was a Lenten or meatless dish, and the use of salt cod suggests it could be as old as the Renaissance, when salt cod became more plentiful.
1898 — In Eggs, and how to use them, a recipe for eggs Benedict is given as "split and toast some small muffins; put on each a nice round slice of broiled ham, and on the ham the poached egg; pour over some Hollandaise sauce
1900 — In The Connecticut Magazine: an Illustrated Monthly, Volume VI, a recipe for eggs Benedict is given as "A third variety is called Eggs Benedict. Broil a thin slice of cold-boiled ham cut the size of a small baker's loaf; toast a slice of bread, butter it and moisten with a little water; lay the ham on it and on that a poached egg. Serve individually.
1907 — In Many Ways for Cooking Eggs, a recipe for eggs Benedict is given that starts with the muffins. Unlike yeast leavened English muffins, the recipe muffins use baking powder and beaten egg whites for leavening; however, they are still baked on a griddle in muffin rings. The remainder of the recipe reads "Broil thin slices of ham. Make a sauce Hollandaise. Chop a truffle. Poach the required number of eggs. Dish the muffins, put a square of ham on each, then a poached egg and cover each egg nicely with sauce Hollandaise. Dust with truffle and serve at once.
1914 — In the 1914 printing of the The Neighborhood Cook Book, a recipe for eggs Benedict is given as "Place a slightly fried piece of ham on a piece of toast, place poached egg on ham, and pour over all a Hollandaise sauce.
1918 — In the 1918 printing of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, a recipe for Eggs à la Benedict is given as "Split and toast English muffins. Sauté circular pieces of cold boiled ham, place these over the halves of muffins, arrange on each a dropped egg, and pour around Hollandaise Sauce II, diluted with cream to make of such consistency to pour easily.
1919 — In The Hotel St. Francis Cook Book, a recipe for eggs Benedict is given as "Cut an English muffin in two, toast, and put on platter. Put a slice of broiled ham on top of each half, a poached egg on top of the ham, cover all with Hollandaise, and lay a slice of truffle on top of the sauce.
1938 — An advertisement for Haill Hayden's Hollandaise — a bottled hollandaise sold in a 6 ounce jar for 50¢ — runs in The New York Times. "Here is a sauce such as no man has had before. On tasting it, great chefs have broken their egg-beaters over their knees and wept in jealousy! It is made of butter fragrant from timothy and alfalfa, eggs to which their mothers are still clucking at this hour, lemon and pungent spices! It is not profaned with a drop of oil or any substitutes. Serve it over cauliflower, artichokes, lettuce, eggs Benedict, fish, singing 'Broccoli, Broccoli,' as you eat".
1942 — In an interview in The New Yorker, Lemuel Benedict claims to have originated the dish with an order at the Waldorf Hotel, hoping for a hangover cure.
1960 — Elizabeth David publishes a work on French provincial cooking that describes an almost identical traditional dish named œufs bénédictine.
1967 — Craig Claiborne writes in The New York Times Magazine that Edward P. Montgomery wrote him a letter to say that eggs Benedict originated with Commodore E.C. Benedict.
1967 — In a letter printed in The New York Times Magazine, Mabel C. Butler responds to Montgomery's claim by stating that Mrs. Le Grand Benedict originated the dish with an order at Delmonico's.
Later editions of Charles Ranhofer’s cookbook The Epicurean contain a recipe for “Eggs à la Benedick”; however, the recipe is not present in the original 1894 edition. Save for a hiatus from 1876 to 1879, Charles Ranhofer was the chef at Delmonico's from 1862 till his retirement in 1896.
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