The New Monte Cristo Sandwich

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Monte Cristo Serving 1 The New Monte Cristo Sandwich

The Monte Cristo Sandwich and I have a long and standoffish, even puckish, relationship. To be honest, I had never actually tasted this sandwich prior to making it recently. And this is bizarre, because while lunching with Mom over many decades, she always ordered a Monte Cristo Sandwich whenever it was on the menu.

Monte Christo Prep 1 The New Monte Cristo Sandwich

I considered the sandwich a ghastly affair—ham, cheese, French toast, and cranberry sauce, finished with a mad dusting of powdered sugar. Mom always exclaimed appreciatively when the concoction arrived at the table. And under my breath, I muttered in unison, “Lord have mercy.”

Monte Christo Prep 2 The New Monte Cristo Sandwich

So recently, perturbed by the fact that this artifact of the late 20th century (1960-2000) has largely disappeared from restaurant menus, Mom asked me to make it for her.

Divine justice strikes again. I should have been kinder and less judgmental about the sandwich. Now I had to make the ghastly thing and try not ooze disrespect while Mom enthusiastically ate it.

Monte Christo Prep 3 The New Monte Cristo Sandwich

But then something unexpected happened. The sandwich looked GOOD. The egg battered bread was crisp, not mushy. The cheese was soft and melting. The cranberry sauce, which I served alongside, rather than in the sandwich, was refreshingly tart and a perfect foil for the richness of the cheese. Even the powdered sugar suddenly seemed a brilliant touch.

Monte Christo Prep 4 The New Monte Cristo Sandwich

I took a bite and then paused as a wild tango of complementary flavors and textures swept across my palate. I ate the entire sandwich. Mom proclaimed it the best Monte Cristo Sandwich she had even eaten and wanted to know when I would make it again. Redemption.

Monte Christo Prep 5 The New Monte Cristo Sandwich

Moral of this story? If you want a retro-cool sandwich in your repertoire that will wow friends and family every time you serve it, this is it. And if you have only eaten this sandwich in the average diner, as I had, don’t conclude that it’s not worthy of perpetuation. It’s worthy. More than worthy.

Monte Cristo Serving 2 The New Monte Cristo Sandwich

Monte Cristo Sandwich

A well-made (i.e. home-made) Monte Cristo Sandwich is an inspired pairing of oh so tender, batter drenched bread, artisan cheese, and fragrant ham—served hot and oozing. Finished with a dusting of powdered sugar and accompanied by a tart fruit sauce, it’s sublime perfection.

Sandwich
4 thick slices soft white artisan bread (challah or brioche loaf is ideal)
homemade or premium prepared mayonnaise, as needed (I like Best Foods)
Dijon mustard, as needed
4 ounces (4-8 slices) thinly sliced premium ham (I like Boarshead rosemary ham)
4 ounces (4-8 slices) thinly sliced premium Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Fontina, or Havarti cheese (any good melting cheese will work)

Batter
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Frying
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Garnish
powdered sugar in a shaker or sieve
homemade or home-style, chunky cranberry sauce

  1. To prepare sandwiches, on a countertop, lay out four slices of bread and spread each generously with mayonnaise and Dijon.
  2. Top each slice with a layer of cheese, then a layer of ham.
  3. To compact, wrap sandwiches tightly with plastic wrap, arrange on a cookie sheet, top with another cookie sheet, and add 4 pounds of weight, evenly distributed. (four, 1-pound cans of tomatoes work here), and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 6 hours. This helps compact the sandwiches and prevents the egg batter from penetrating too deeply.
  4. To prepare batter, in a flat baking dish, whisk eggs, milk, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt.
  5. To batter-coat, unwrap the sandwiches, and dip each side in the batter for 20 seconds per side. Each side should be coated evenly.
  6. To cook, melt butter with oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Place unwrapped sandwiches in the skillet and regulate heat so that it takes about 10 minutes to beautifully brown each side of the sandwiches, turning only once. During the final 2-3 minutes, cover sandwiches with a domed lid to steam-soften the bread and finish melting the cheese.
  7. To serve, remove sandwiches to a cutting board and cut in quarters diagonally. Arrange, overlapping slightly, on two serving plates, dust with powdered sugar, and accompany with cranberry relish. Serve hot.

Makes 2 sandwiches.

Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)

Thanks for stopping by. Happy cooking!

Copy­right 2013 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

Comments

  1. I like that you wrote this recipe down. A delicious artifact!
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  2. The first time I ate one of these was at the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland. Sitting under the fake fireflies as a kid and tasting this grown-up sandwich was in a word: Magical. I’m glad you finally tasted it and found out what you’ve been missing all these years. I, like your mom, order it every restaurant chance I get. However, as mentioned, finding them are few and far between these days. Maybe we can bring it back, but in the meantime…I need to go to the store for some ham…

    BTW, a traditional MC, at least in most restaurants over the years include ham, turkey, and swiss with a sweet jam. You might want to taste test that next time, now that you’ve been converted that is. :)

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