This nifty little sandwich has quite a history. Apparently it is based on a similar French sandwich called Croque Monsiuer – which started from what is basically a grilled cheese sandwich. When it appeared in American cookbooks in the 1930’s, it was known as French sandwich. Then someone came up with the idea of combining those two “French” dishes – French sandwich and French toast – into a Cheese Dream Sandwich. Apparently the idea of serving it with jelly came from the French Toast connection. King’s Restaurants in Nebraska carried the idea further by deep frying the sandwich and calling it a Frenchee, which they served with ketchup. But it’s real claim to fame was in the mid Sixties when it appeared in Disney’s Cajun (that French connection again!) restaurant where it was called the Monte Cristo.
Now forget that connection to French Toast. Yes, you dip the completed sandwich into a similar egg mixture. Unlike French Toast in which bread is allowed to soak up the milk egg mixture, a Monte Cristo gets just a quick dip to coat the bread. Pick up the sandwich triangles by the tips of the long side, hold firmly and dunk. Turn over and dunk the other side and place in the skillet waiting with hot melted butter (or oil). Adjust the heat so that the sandwich cooks slowly. It will need about 4 minutes on each side to thoroughly heat the meat and melt the cheese. You can also prepare this in an oiled grill or Panini maker—I’m told. The bread is an important part. It’s good on whatever bread you keep on hand, but for best results choose an artisan bread. The one pictured is Challah bread, light and soft textured with an eggy yellow color, but sour dough bread is also good. The jelly served as a dipping sauce is a must. Powdered sugar is optional. A great hearty supper dish that is also company fare!
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