Some well-crafted work here.
Some well-crafted work here.
Today I made an old-fashioned English bread pudding from a recipe by an old-fashioned plain speaking Englishman. Best served with hot runny custard, but the sour cream was pretty good, too.
I love eggs benedict. It is one of my very favourite foods and I enjoy it as often as possible. It is always my test for a new breakfast restaurant, but mostly I make them at home.
Long ago, I was taught the classic preparation and, like for many cooks, it seemed so complicated that I rarely made them except for very special occasions. However, these days, there are any number of efficient ways to make them, In the last few years, I have tried a few different takes including Chef John‘s version of hollandaise and that of Svitliana Popivnyak). Using an uncomplicated method poaching eggs also helps!
Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be a cooking lesson! I have written before about the mystery of how certain foods came about, but there should be no mystery about Eggs Benedict. It was definitely invented at a certain time and place. But where and when exactly? Luckily, there is a fascinating piece in Literary Hub that helps show the way. They mention the first known reference to the dish in “The Rich Fool and the Clever Pauper,”
“an 1894 work of fiction by Horace Annesley Vachell, a British expatriate then living in San Francisco. Printed in the January issue of Overland Monthly, a California literary magazine, it is considered to be the first-known printed reference to eggs à la Benedict, as poached eggs over toast with ham and hollandaise was originally known. And I quote: “After luncheon, which consisted of Blue Points, potted char, eggs à la Benedict, and a remarkable Maraschino jelly, Jimmy announced his intention of taking a walk by himself.”
The article then goes on to describe the three main origin stories. First:
“the Lemuel Benedict at the Waldorf story, which appeared in The New Yorker in 1942 … By his own account to the reporter, the New York City socialite and stockbroker invented the dish forty- eight years earlier by ordering a similar concoction while hungover at the hotel. That could have been 1893, given that these were recollections, but no earlier, as the hotel only opened that year.”
“The Commodore E. C. Benedict recipe story, from a column by New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne in 1967 … Commodore. E.C. was a New York City stockbroker who would have been hanging out among the other socialites in the 1890s.”
“The Mrs. Le Grand Benedict at Delmonico’s story … According to her family’s lore, Mrs. Benedict was a relative of the commodore, and she created the dish at the “turn of the century” (Mabel’s words) at then-world-famous Delmonico’s, Mrs. Benedict’s regular Saturday brunch spot. Mrs. Benedict told the maître’d what she wanted, in Mabel’s telling, essentially the dish as we know it topped with some truffles.”
The article proceeds to doubt the veracity of the stories, but what seems certain is that it was invented in the 1890s in New York City. As Claiborne noted in his 1967 account, “Eggs Benedict is conceivably the most sophisticated dish ever created in America.”
Tonight I made hot and sour soup, using this recipe. I used chicken rather than pork, and homemade stock. With all modesty, it was as good as any of the many hot and sour soups I have had in restaurants over the years.
Black puddings are some of my favourite things. Other kinds of blood puddings are okay at a pinch (JNZ’s is particularly fine), but nothing compares to the blood, oatmeal, and beef suet creations born in England. Slices of quickly heated black pudding are the perfect complement to any configuration of the traditional English breakfast, or served between two heavily-buttered pieces of good bread.
Most North Americans shy away from trying this perfect food. Obviously, the list of ingredients will seem unattractive to some. But it is also true that most black puddings are cooked too long and turn into hockey pucks. Thus, even if you are brave enough to try it, it may be horrible and put you off a second attempt.
I was lucky enough to be raised in London where they know how to cook their puddings. And I love them.
Experienced cooks will recognize what I mean when I say that for me, in the context of a fried breakfast, black pudding performs like an anchovy in a beef stew. It dissipates a flavor that complements and embraces all the other flavours and yet almost evaporates under examination; umami, as the Japanese have it.
A wonderful experience. And now we hear it is oddly healthy apparently,
“according to well-known nutritional oracle MuscleFood (an online shop specialising in lean meats for body builders). A spokesman … claimed the pudding is becoming so popular with their health-conscious customers that they have declared it ‘a new buzzword in clean eating. Black pudding is a superfood. Low in carbohydrates, high in protein, filled with essential nutrients. Lancastrian Viagra, I call it.”