The Monte Cristo sandwich is based on a similar sandwich called Croque Monsieuer – 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. 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. But it’s real claim to fame was in the mid Sixties when it appeared in Disney’s Cajun restaurant where it was called — ta da — the Monte Cristo Sandwich. And here I thought it had been around since one of the King Louis’ or at least Napoleon!
Now forget that connection to French Toast. Yes, you dip the assembled Monte Cristo 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; 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 dish that is also company fare!
- 6 slices challah bread or sour dough bread
- 3 slices ham, thick cut
- 6 slices turkey breast, medium deli cut
- 3 slices Swiss cheese
- 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup of milk
- Pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter (or cooking oil)
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar for dusting
- ⅓ cup strawberry or raspberry jam for dipping
- Break egg into shallow bowl or plate, add milk and pepper and whisk together until egg is incorporated into milk. Set aside.
- Lay two slices of bread on work surface and spread thinly with half a teaspoon of mustard.
- Add slice of ham, slice of Swiss cheese and 2 slices of turkey breast to one slice of bread and top with second slice with mustard facing center of sandwich.
- Cut sandwich diagonally from one corner to another, forming two triangles.
- Put about 1 tablespoon of oil into large skillet over medium heat.
- Dip one triangle sandwich into egg and milk mixture, just far enough to coat the bread. Turn sandwich over and repeat for the second side. Remove from egg mixture quickly so as not to soak the bread.
- Place sandwich into skillet and repeat with the other half.
- Cook on one side undisturbed for about 4 - 5 minutes until bottom side is golden brown.
- Turn and cook on the second side until it is also golden brown and cheese is melted, another 4-5 minutes.
- While first sandwich is cooking prepare second and third sandwiches, but stop when assembled.
- After removing first sandwich from skillet, add about 1 tablespoon of oil, coat both sides of one sandwich triangle and place in skillet. Repeat with remaining triangles until all four are in the skillet. Cook as above.
- Place sandwiches on plates, dust with powdered sugar.
- Serve hot with spoon full of raspberry or strawberry jam for dipping.
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