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May 28 Anniversary of the Election of Pietro Orsini as Pope Benedict XIII\

by Gordon Nary

Pope Benedict XIII governed the Roman Church from 1724 to 1730. Pietro Orsini was seventy-six years old when he was elected Pope. The aged pontiff's reign can be remembered for four accomplishments. Benedict cracked down on the Roman lotteries; forbade the cardinals to wear wigs; repealed the world wide smoking ban set by Pope Urban VII; .and lived on a diet of poached eggs and dry toast because of his chronic digestive problems. Since a poached egg and dry toast diet was rather bland, the eggs were often served with a lemon sauce. The lemon-sauced egg on toast became known as Eggs Benedict.

The addition of ham, the substitution of an English muffin, and the sliced truf­fle garnish were later embellishments. Oscar of the Waldorf claimed to have created the final assemblage as part of an anti-hangover cure for Samuel Benedict, a New York playboy. Oscar, remembering the antispasmodic powers of poached eggs, cream sauce, and toast on the playboy's namesake, transformed an elderly pope's dietary staple to the ubiquitous staple of the classic brunch. *

Eggs Benedict (Papal Version without Ham)


4 egg yolks 3 1/2 TB lemon juice 1 pinch ground white pepper 1 cup butter, melted q TB water 1/4 teaspoon salt

4 English muffins, split 2 TB butter, softened


  1. Fill the bottom of a double boiler part-way with water. Make sure that water does not touch the top pan. Bring water to a gentle simmer. In the top of the double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice, white pepper, and 1 tablespoon water.

  2. Add the melted butter to egg yolk mixture 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking yolks constantly. If hollandaise begins to get too thick, add a teaspoon or two of hot water. Continue whisking until all butter is incorporated. Whisk in salt, then remove from heat. Place a lid on pan to keep sauce warm.

  3. Preheat oven on broiler setting.

  4. ill a large saucepan with 3 inches of water. Bring water to a gentle simmer, then add vinegar. Carefully break eggs into simmering water, and allow to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Yolks should still be soft in center. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon and set on a warm plate

  5. While eggs are poaching, brown the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and toast the English muffins on a baking sheet under the broiler.

  6. Spread toasted muffins with softened butter, a followed by one poached egg. Place 2 muffins on each plate and drizzle with hollandaise sauce. Serve immediately.

* Several other people named Benedict have taken credit for either inventing or inspiring this recipe, including Commodore E. C. Benedict (a close friend of Grover Cleveland), a Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, a distant relation of the Commodore's, and Lemual Benedict, a New York

© 2011 Gordon Nary

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