Each week there will be a new "installment" of the series.
For my first adventure--Eggs Benedict.
|Picture from Wizard Recipes.|
Week 1--History of the dish
Week 2--How to poach an egg
Week 3--Tackling the hollandaise sauce
Week 4--Bringing it all together!
I know my husband is very eager for me to get underway with this dish. :) But before I get into the nitty-gritty of the recipes, I am curious about the history behind Eggs Benedict. See, now you are curious too. Here's what I learned.
First, what is eggs Benedict?
Eggs Benedict is a specialty breakfast, luncheon, or brunch item. It is built atop of toasted English muffin halves layered with a slice of ham, or Canadian bacon, a poached egg, and topped with a dollop of hollandaise sauce. This begs the next question...
What is hollandaise?
To begin with, the word 'hollandaise' means Holland-style or from Holland. Hollandaise is a notoriously complex sauce and not for the faint of heart...so I've heard. It is a smooth, rich and creamy sauce and is used to embellish vegetable, fish and egg dishes. It is made with butter and egg yolks, which are used as binding. Hollandaise is to be a pale lemon color and opaque. There should be a luster to the sauce while not appearing to be oily. It should have a buttery-smooth texture--almost frothy--with an aroma of butter.
As for its history, well, that's not so complex. The general consensus is that it was originally called Sauce Isigny after the town Isigny-sur-Mer in Normandy, France, known for their butter. During World War I, the butter production in France stopped. So where did they get butter to make their delectable sauces? Holland. (See where this is going?) As the source of the butter changed, it was only fitting that the name of the sauce followed suit. This is the name we still use today, hollandaise.
Okay, that gives us the origin of the name--but what about the actual sauce? The earliest appearance of the sauce is way back in the 17th century. The original sauce is believed to have been brought to France by the Heugenots. Before that, it seems to have been a Flemish (from Belgium) or a Dutch sauce that was thickened with eggs, similar to that of a savory custard, with a little butter beaten in to smooth out the texture.
Now, who decided to put the hollandaise, English muffin, ham, and egg all together?
This is where the stories get a bit crossed. Like every good dish, there are multiple people laying claims to its creation. I'll share what I found and let you decide which to believe.
Version 1 (Courtesy of Wikipedia.com and corroborated by Eggs Benedict New York ): An interview was conducted in 1942 by the writer of the column "Talk of the Town", found in The New Yorker, with Lemuel Benedict. Benedict claimed that he had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894 and was in need of a hangover cure. He ordered "buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a [pitcher] of hollandaise". The maitre d'hotel, the famed Oscar Tschirky, was so impressed with the dish Benedict ordered that he put it on the menus for breakfast and lunch. However, he did not copy the dish exactly. Tschirky substituted ham for the bacon and a toasted English muffin for the toast. And *BAM* eggs Benedict.
Version 2 (Courtesy of Wikipedia.com): In September of 1967 Craig Claiborne wrote a column in the New York Times Magazine about a letter he had received from one Edward P. Montgomery--an American who was residing in France at the time. Montgomery claims that the dish in question was created by a Commodore E.C. Benedict, a banker and yachtsman. Montgomery included a recipe and maintained it had been given to him by his mother, who had in turn received it from her brother, who was a friend of the Commodore.
Version 3 (Courtesy of Wikipedia.com and The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion, by Herbst & Herbst): Now lots of people saw this claim made but only one argued it. In November 1967 Mabel C. Butler of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, wrote a letter to the New York Times Magazine responding to Montgomery's claim. In her letter she stated that the "true story, well known to relations of Mrs. Le Grand Benedict: of whom she was one was just this:
"Mr. & Mrs. Benedict, when they lived in New York around the turn of the century, dined every Saturday at Demonico'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."A variation on version 3 comes from a site devoted completely to eggs Benedict--no joke. Eggs Benedict New York tells of the "classic myth" giving credit to the 1860's Wall Street banker LeGrand Benedict and the chef of the ritzy Manhattan restaurant Delmonico's, Chef Charles Ranhofer.
Version 4 (Courtesy of Eggs Benedict New York): Eggs Benedict New York also provides us with a lesser known and less credible claim. There is also a claim floating around out there that the dish was invented at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans. There is no more info than that, seemingly proving the "least credible" title.
*Whew* that was a lot of info for one post! I look forward to next week when we get started on poaching eggs. See ya then!!