Delmonico potatoes are a side dish created in the 1830s by an unknown chef at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City. The exact recipe is not known, but traditionally combines shredded white potatoes, milk, cream, grated parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and is baked in a gratin dish until golden. This closely resembles a recipe published in 1912 by one of the original Delmonico’s chefs. The Delmonico potato recipe became famous and was recreated in restaurants and in homes across the United States.
By the late 19th century, there were already many variations of Delmonico potatoes recipes appearing in published cookbooks of the era. Throughout the 20th century, variations of the recipe continued to be popular. Modern variations on Delmonico potatoes may call for shredded or diced potatoes, onions, flour, butter, rice, or cheddar cheese, many of which were not contained in the original recipe.
Delmonico’s restaurant opened in 1827 when John and Peter Delmonico, brothers originally from Switzerland, opened a pastry in New York City. They expanded and changed the shop to a restaurant offering French food in 1830. Delmonico’s became one of the first full service restaurants in the United States.
The Delmonico brothers patterned their restaurant after the French who offer individual items from a menu instead of requiring that all patrons eat whatever meal was prepared. The restaurant was considered the first fine dining establishment in the U.S. and became renowned for serving European recipes. The restaurant was also known for its attention to detail.
Several chefs worked for Delmonico’s in the 19th century, any of whom may have developed the recipe for Delmonico potatoes. Peter Delmonico originally did all the cooking while John managed the restaurant. In 1831, their nephew, Lorenzo Delmonico, joined and stayed with the restaurant for the rest of his career, eventually managing it after John’s death. In 1837, John Lux joined the restaurant as head chef. The earliest menu from 1838 offered pommes de terre a la maitre d'hotel, or fricasseed potatoes, possibly the original Delmonico potatoes.
Alessandro Filippini joined Delmonico’s in 1849 and is believed to have created the recipe for Delmonico steak. He published several cookbooks. The International Table, published in 1912, contained a recipe for Delmonico potatoes. Charles Ranhofer took over in 1862, too late to have been the creator of Delmonico potatoes. He is known for having created baked Alaska, lobster Newburg, and chicken a la king.