By Jeff Fijolek
Have you ever stopped mid-brunch, stared at the half-empty mimosas dotting the table and considered the origin of eggs benedict?
What about the roots of the club sandwich? Or the California roll? “Signature Dishes That Matter” (Phaidon, 2019) has the answers for you!
Made up of a who’s who of food writers from around the globe, the curators of “Signature Dishes That Matter” seek to identify and explain the origins of some of the world’s most iconic meals.
Part cookbook, part culinary chronology, “Signature Dishes” delivers bite-sized histories of foods ranging from the ubiquitous (gelato) to the unique (Daniel Boulud’s DB Burger—a blend of meats stuffed with braised beef and foie gras) and the pedestrian (nachos) to the instagramable (Dominique Ansel’s Cronut®.)
The authors concede that some of the dishes chronicled are not necessarily the first of their kind, but in the case of Joel Robuchon’s potato puree, it is the perfect example of a signature dish that matters.
With a 1:2 butter to potato ratio, the world-famous chef and owner of 32 Michelin stars, proclaimed he owed his entire career to these mashed potatoes. While some recipes featured may be out of reach for the home cook—like El Bulli’s signature spheres of olive juice that ignited the molecular gastronomy movement—Robuchon’s potatoes are an accessible five-ingredient, five-step recipe that can bring a world-class dish to any meal.
Thanks to an introduction from the James Beard Foundation’s Mitchell Davis and whimsical illustrations by Adriano Rampazzo, “Signature Dishes” is as comfortable displayed on the coffee table as it is in the kitchen.
So the next time you see eggs benedict through the bottom of your bloody mary glass, you can thank Lemuel Benedict, who, while nursing a hangover at New York’s Waldorf Hotel in 1894, stacked his toast, bacon and poached eggs before drowning them in hollandaise sauce, cementing his place in brunch and culinary history.