By JOE O'CONNELL,
First posted 25 August 2001 at 1525 GMT
Last updated 30 November 2003 at 1702 GMT
NEW YORK, New York -- Delmonico
Potatoes are famous across the United States and around the world.
The recipe for Delmonico Potatoes, perhaps
the best, rarest and most desirable way to prepare potatoes, originated
around 1830 at Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City.
However, there is a little-recognized problem with "Delmonico
Potatoes": no one today (until now) seems to know the exact recipe
for the authentic, original "Delmonico Potatoes." The recipe today
differs from restaurant to restaurant and from cookbook to cookbook.
This is unfortunate because the name originally applied to a very rare,
tender and tasty steak that became world-famous in the 19th Century.
So, what is the authentic, original recipe for Delmonico Potatoes?
The answer has been found and is presented here.
The Internet hoax
Even a cursory search through cookbooks and the Internet will locate
dozens of recipes for Delmonico Potatoes. They are varied and
contain strange ingredients: rice, processed American cheese,
onions, parsley, and many other ingredients unknown in the real recipe.
The same recipe is repeated in many websites, which contain the same
This recipe has been in my family for 100 years. The family legend
was that it came from the Delmonico Hotel in New York, whose chef,
Charles Ranhofer, had given it to my great-great grandfather under
some circumstance in the 1880's.
Of course, this since sentence contains erroneous facts.
Ranhofer never worked at the "Delmonico Hotel" but instead was chef at
Delmonico's Restaurant (a different institution at a different location)
and, more importantly, Ranhofer did not create the recipe (as discussed
below). This Internet hoax recipe contains the following eight
- white rice
- sharp cheddar cheese
A comparison of these ingredients with those of the authentic recipe
(below) shows how different this recipe is from the original.
Writer's Comment: It is shocking how
many websites repeat variations of this incorrect recipe without any
attribution or citation. It is also disappointing that some
so-called authorities -- head chefs and others -- publish a recipe for
"Delmonico Potatoes" that neither resembles the authentic recipe nor
contains any disclaimer of "poetic license". See, e.g.,
Head Chef Tony Nacopoulos recipe at
The authentic, original recipe for Delmonico Potatoes has been
discovered and is given below. However, the inventor of the recipe
is not known with certainty, although it is certainly not Charles
The recipe for Delmonico Potatoes was developed by an unidentified
The earliest known menu from Delmonico's, dating from 1838, includes
"Pommes de terre a la maitre d'hotel" (translated on the menu as
Of course, the French pommes de terre means potatoes, and a
la maitre d'hotel means literally "by the master of the house" and
may be translated as the "the house specialty". That is, the item
in English would be Delmonico Potatoes. The use of the English
translation with the French word fricasseed is curious.
Fricasseed in the Eighteenth Century meant "cut into pieces for stewing
in a sauce" (in the modern definition, stewing evolved into sauteeing).
The recipe may have been created by John Lux, by Alessandro
Filippini, by an unidentified cook at Delmonico's, or even by an unknown
cook in Paris.
Beginning in the 1830s, Lux was the chef de cuisine at
Delmonico's and was responsible for bringing the latest Parisian food
creations to Delmonico's. Steele at 46. Before 1850,
Filippini started at Delmonico's as a cook and rose to become the
manager at the lower Broadway location. Filippini published the
recipe for Delmonico Potatoes. Filippini, International, at
204 (recipe no. 718).
It is possible and even probable that the recipe was based on a
recipe invented in Paris and then was developed and perfected at
. . . these Gallic inventions, when transferred to Delmonico's
kitchens, often proved superior to their prototypes at Paris, because
Delmonico's cooks considered themselves ambassadors charged with
upholding the honor of their national cuisine; and in fulfilling
this mission they were able to draw upon the greater abundance of fine
foodstuffs available in America. Steele at 46.
The recipe for Delmonico Potatoes definitely was not developed by
Charles Ranhofer, and it was not published in his seminal book, The
Epicurean. Ranhofer could not have developed the recipe,
because he did not join Delmonico's until May, 1862, more than twenty
years after Delmonico Potatoes first appeared on the menu at
The original recipe
The recipe for Delmonico Potatoes is set forth in Filippini's book,
The International Cook Book, as recipe number 718 at page 204.
The exact recipe follows, after which there is an explanation of some of
the terms used in the recipe, including handshed, gill and
[Recipe Number] 718. Delmonico Potatoes
Place four good-sized boiled and finely handshed potatoes in a
frying pan with one and a half gills cold milk, half gill cream, two
saltspoons salt, one saltspoon white pepper, and a saltspoon grated
nutmeg; mix well and cook on the range for ten minutes, lightly
mixing occasionally. Then add one tablespoon grated Parmesan
cheese, lightly mix again. Transfer the potatoes into a gratin
dish, sprinkle another light tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese over
and set in the oven to bake for six minutes, or until they have
obtained a good golden colour; remove and serve. Id at
Unusual terms in the recipe
The recipe includes several unusual terms, which are explained here.
- handshed seems to be an old cooking term which means
shed by hand, or in modern usage, shred by hand, which
means hash or grate or shred into long, narrow
- gill is an old cooking measure of volume which equals
one-half cup (4 liquid ounces).
- saltspoon refers to a measure of a "standard" spoon used
in Nineteenth Century salt cellars and equals one-quarter teaspoon.
This is the original recipe, explained in modern terminology.
This makes about four cups and serves 6 or 8.
- Four medium white potatoes
- 3/4 cup of whole milk
- 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 6 quart pot for boiling potatoes
- Large frying pan
- Buttered baking dish
Wash (but do not skin) the potatoes, and quarter them lengthwise
(so that, after cooking, they can be grated into the longest shreds
possible). Bring 8 cups of water to a boil and then add the
potatoes. Let boil for 10 minutes so that the potatoes are not
cooked through. Immediately submerse the hot potatoes into cold
water, and let them cool for at least 30 minutes. Grate the
potatoes into long strips.
Mix together in a bowl the other milk, cream, salt, pepper and
Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat and then add the
potatoes and liquid mixture. Fold them together well but gently,
without mashing the potatoes, and cook for 10 minutes, mixing lightly
occasionally so that they do not burn. Remove from the stove and
fold in 1 tablespoon of the cheese.
Transfer the potatoes into a pre-buttered baking dish and arrange
evenly. On top, sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of cheese.
Preheat the over to 425F. Place the uncovered baking dish
into the upper-third of the oven, and bake for 6 minutes or until
Like the Delmonico Steak, Delmonico Potatoes were introduced to New
Yorkers early in the Nineteenth Century. The Delmonico name and
reputation spread across the United States and came to be synonymous
with "the best". Patrons in cities across America demanded that
their chefs provide a "Delmonico Steak" and "Delmonico Potatoes", and
the chefs, who did not have the actual recipes, responded with
inventions of their own.
Thus, "Delmonico Steak" came to mean one cut of beef in Chicago,
another in New Orleans, and another yet in Denver and San Francisco.
A similar fate befell "Delmonico Potatoes".
Truth in history has now prevailed, as a result of research into
primary sources. What remains is for the Internet community to
update their websites and correct the misinformation about the
"Delmonico Steak" and "Delmonico Potatoes".