plural in form but singular or plural in construction
: a dish of poached eggs and browned ham or Canadian bacon placed on toasted halves of English muffin and covered with hollandaise
origin uncertain, presumed to be after an individual named Benedict
The earliest evidence for the phrase found thus far is as eggs a la Benedict, in a short story, "The Rich Fool and the Clever Pauper," published in The Overland Monthly (vol. 33, issue 133, January, 1894, p. 51): "After luncheon, which consisted of blue points, potted char, eggs a la Benedict, and a remarkable Maraschino jelly, Jimmy announced his intention of taking a walk by himself." The author of the story was Horace Annesley Vachell (1861-1955), an English fiction writer who at the time of publication was living in California; the meal in question takes place in the dining room of the University Club in San Francisco. A recipe for "eggs à la Benedick," corresponding essentially to the modern version, appears in Charles Ranhofer's The Epicurean: A Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art (New York, 1894), p. 858. Ranhofer (1836-99) was principal chef at Delmonico's, a restaurant in Lower Manhattan, through much of the later nineteenth century. (There is some question as to whether the recipe was included in the earliest printing of The Epicurean, but it can be found in the copy from the Boston Public Library reproduced at the Internet Archive, which has an accession date of June 28, 1894, on the verso of the title page.) Various people have been claimed as the original Benedict, all from Gilded Age New York City, and all long after the fact. According to the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" column from December 19, 1942 (p. 13), the eponymous individual was Lemuel C. Benedict (1867-1943), a stockbroker who allegedly first ordered the dish at the Waldorf Hotel in Manhattan in 1894. The Waldorf maître d'hôtel Oscar Tschirky then put the dish on the hotel menu. Whatever the merits of this story, the 1894 date is impossible given that a dish was known under that name in California in late 1893. (A full account of this origin is given in the article "Was He the Eggman?" by Gregory Beyer, New York Times, April 8, 2007). A second claimant has been the New York banker and yachtsman Elias Cornelius Benedict (1834-1920). His name was proposed as the eponym by one Edward P. Montgomery in a letter to the food journalist Craig Claiborne (see New York Times Magazine, September 24, 1967, p. 94). In response to Claiborne's article a third claimant was proposed, in a letter to the New York Times Magazine (November 26, 1967, p. 55), by Mabel C. Butler, of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. This was Mrs. LeGrand Lockwood Benedict (Emma Frances Gardner Benedict, 1843-1932), who allegedly suggested the dish to the maître d'hôtel of Delmonico's "around the turn of the century."