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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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)
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
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
powdered sugar in a shaker or sieve
homemade or home-style, chunky cranberry sauce
- To prepare sandwiches, on a countertop, lay out four slices of bread and spread each generously with mayonnaise and Dijon.
- Top each slice with a layer of cheese, then a layer of ham.
- 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.
- To prepare batter, in a flat baking dish, whisk eggs, milk, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt.
- To batter-coat, unwrap the sandwiches, and dip each side in the batter for 20 seconds per side. Each side should be coated evenly.
- 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.
- 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)
- Wikipedia: Monte Cristo Sandwich
- Brown Eyed Baker: Monte Cristo Sandwich
- Google Images: Monte Cristo
- Between the Bread: The Monte Cristo, from Depression to DisneyHappy cooking!
Thanks for stopping by. Happy cooking!
Copyright 2013 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.