For those of you that aren’t familiar with this American sandwich, it may sound a little odd. Part breakfast, part club sandwich, it’s a strange combination of sweet and savory from different meals in the day. But if you’re the type that likes to dip your bacon in maple syrup, you’ll love the Monte Cristo Sandwich.
It’s an impossible combination of sweet/savory, pillowy/custardy, crispy/tender, and creamy/lean. All in one bite! A Monte Cristo embodies the spirit of brunch, and is one of the things I love chowing down on when I wake up far too late in the day to call my frist meal “breakfast”.
While some will tell you that this sandwich is as old as Alexandre Dumas’ novel of the same name, the Monte Cristo Sandwich is actually quite a bit more recent and more domestic in provenance. It’s essentially an American version of the croque-monsieur, and showed up sometime in the 1930’s. As for the name, it’s unlikely they invented it, but Disneyland is credited with popularizing the name “Monte Cristo Sandwich”. It’s been a staple on the menu at Cafe Orleans and Blue Bayou since they opened in the 1960’s and was the first place I ever had one.
My version of the Monte Cristo Sandwich combines my favorite way of making French toast with my favorite lunch meats. The flour and cheese in this French toast batter gives the tender challah bread a crisp outer crust, while making the inside of the bread custardy. The meats are a little on the sweet-side and if you can find real Emmentaler cheese, it’s nuttier and more flavorful than American “Swiss cheese”.
Dust a little powdered sugar on top and dip the sandwich in ample amounts of jam or maple syrup and your confused taste buds will thank you for overcoming your initial skepticism.
Monte Cristo Sandwich
makes 2 sandwiches
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
6 thin slices of challah bread or brioche
1 tablespoon butter
2 ounces Emmentaler (Swiss) cheese, sliced thin
1/4 pound sliced honey roasted turkey
1/4 pound sliced black forrest ham
strawberry or raspberry jam
Whisk the egg, milk, flour, cheese and nutmeg together until smooth. Heat a skillet or griddle large enough to accomodate all the slices of bread in a single layer over medium heat. Dip the slices of bread into the egg mixture, giving it a few seconds on each side to absorb the batter.
Add the butter to the pan once it is hot, then place as many slices of battered bread onto it as you can fit. Wait till it is golden brown and crisp on one side, then flip and top 4 pieces of bread with the cheese. Put the turkey on 2 of cheesed slices of bread and the ham on the other 2 cheesed slices of bread.
Fry until the bread is browned and crisp on the second side, then make the sandwich by stacking a ham slice with a turkey slice topped with a plain piece of French toast. Slice the sandwiches in half, dust with powdered sugar, and serve with a small bowl of jam.