While going on a walk with friends one night, we started talking about food and breakfast versus lunch; the Monte Cristo sandwich came up. I thought this was a fitting sandwich to write about for a couple reasons.
First, it is a great sandwich with a ton of flavor and you rarely see it on menus these days. Also, when you are wondering whether to have breakfast or lunch, this sandwich can pretty much land in either category. It is kind of like having a stuffed French toast, which would make it a breakfast item, but the filling is a turkey, ham and cheese, making it closer to lunch.
The sandwich is a turkey, ham and cheese sandwich, which has the crust cut off and then gets dipped in an egg batter, deep fried and served with jelly. Well, that’s pretty much the traditional method anyway, but there are quite a few variations.
It also had three pieces of bread and is put together with the ham and a slice of cheese together on the bottom and the turkey and a slice of cheese on the top with a piece of bread separating them like a club sandwich. A lot of places will only use two slices of bread with the same filling.
When I worked at the Nantucket Yacht Club, we did some experimenting and decided we liked it best with only two pieces of bread. Also, it was pretty good deep fried, but I prefer to cook it more like French toast in a skillet or sauté pan with butter.
The difference between cooking French toast and this sandwich is that once I flip the sandwich, I toss it in a 350-degree F oven to finish it instead of finishing it on top of the stove. This has two advantages and I use this method for grilled cheese and a ton of other things I’m cooking. By sticking the pan in the oven, you can get the center of the sandwich hot with the cheese nice and melted much easier while at the same time decreasing the chance of burning the second side. Once the sandwich is cooked, then it goes back to being treated as a breakfast item like the French toast; dust it with powdered sugar and serve it with a jelly or jam.
So, now that you know what this sandwich is, the next time you have guests staying over or just find yourself in that lazy mode when you can’t decide whether to have breakfast or lunch, try making a Monte Cristo sandwich and enjoy.
1⁄4 C milk
Salt & fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
5 T butter, softened
4 slices white bread
4 thin slices turkey
4 thin slices ham
4 thin slices Greyer cheese
Red currant or raspberry jelly or jam
To make the batter, beat the egg and milk together with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. I use fresh nutmeg and only one or two passes over the grater. You want to be able to tell there is something there without it being overpowering. Set that aside.
Put your sandwich together by first cutting off the crust and lightly buttering the inside of the bread. Layer the ham followed by the cheese and finally the turkey and close the sandwich. Lightly butter the outsides of the bread and secure the sandwich with toothpicks.
Dip the sandwiches in the batter and add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and set the heat to medium high. When the butter starts to foam, place in the sandwiches and let them fry until golden brown. Flip the sandwiches — gently remove the toothpicks or carefully push them through so they stick out the other side — and immediately toss into the oven to finish.
Place on a plate, dust with the powdered sugar and serve with jelly or jam.