I’ll never forget the first time I had a Monte Cristo Sandwich. My mom and I had gotten dressed up to go to the Tennis/Golf Club for lunch. This was a nerve racking experience to me because my mom and I were not exactly their usual partitioners. We belonged to the Tennis Club because each year my family would pick a sport(tennis was by far our most athletic one we picked) and we would play together every Saturday morning(or more depending). My parents were the only ones at the club with wooden rackets(I begged for a graphite one). They played with used balls and really could care less. We would schlep out there in our baggy t-shirts and baggy shorts and play around. It was really bad when my brother would come home from college and come out and play with us. His version of tennis was to hit the ball as hard as he could and scream “ACE” at the top of his lungs. My parents almost always knocked their ball into other people’s court while they were in play. It got so bad my parents considered buying t-shirts that said “Sorry, can we get our ball back.” The tennis people finally started putting us on the far back court and so the only people who had to worry were those driving by and those who were brave enough to park their car there. Many a convertible owner returned to find a tennis ball or two sitting in their car.
So going to lunch there that day was a big deal to me. I didn’t want to stick out as the daughter of the wooden racket people(I was 16 , you know how embarrassed you get at 16). Everything there was crisp and white, including the waiters shirts. I had fancy iced tea with raspberries and mint floating around in it. I had made up my mind that I was going to order something that I had never had before. There it was, the Monte Cristo. Sounded so odd to me. French toast filled with ham, turkey, swill cheese….sprinkled with powdered sugar and dipped in strawberry jam. My mother assured me that I would enjoy it, explaining that it was one of her favorites too. So I ordered away, standing up straight as I could(I’m a bit of a sloucher) and trying to sound as sophisticated as a 16 year old could. When it came it was all golden and crispy just like French toast with a tiny side of jam(I knew right away to ask for more). What a wonderful lunch I had.
So when I saw that Slashfood was having a sandwich day I had to write about my beloved Monte Cristo. You don’t find them very much and that is a shame. It is such a wonderful sandwich, offering the best of both worlds, breakfast and lunch. Or as I like to say, it makes for a nice portable brunch. For my sandwich today I stuck with a fairly simple version of the Monte Cristo(sadly without powdered sugar…I was out!) but have also included a more interesting/complicated version.
Monte Cristo Sandwich
18 slices bread
6 slices ham
6 slices turkey or chicken
12 slices Swiss or Gruyere cheese
a little mustard and mayonnaise, if desired
1/3 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
For each sandwich use 3 slices of bread. Butter one side of bread first, then cover with a slice of ham and a slice of turkey or chicken. Butter both sides of the second slice of bread and spread with a little mustard or other dressing, if desired.
Place on top of turkey or ham slice and top with 2 thin slices of cheese. Butter third slice for top; press sandwich lightly and trim crusts. Cut into halves diagonally and secure with toothpicks.
Beat eggs with milk and salt. Dip sandwich halves into the egg mixture and fry on a hot skillet or griddle in butter or margarine. Brown on all sides, adding more butter when necessary. Remove toothpicks before serving.
Makes 6 sandwiches, 12 cut triangles, to serve 4.
Serve with either currant or strawberry jam(I prefer the strawberry).
From Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book (Canada, UK), by Nancy Silverton.
For the Batter:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup club soda
1-1/2 cups dark beer
For the Sandwiches:
6 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread, each buttered on one side
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, sliced into 18 1/16-inch-thick slices
8 ounces smoked ham, such as Black Forest, sliced into 9 1/16-inch-thick slices
8 ounces roast turkey, sliced into 9 1/16-inch-thick slices
5 tablespoons strawberry jam, plus extra to serve on the side
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1/2 cup powdered sugar
To make the Batter: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cayenne, and salt. Whisk in the club soda and beer. The mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
To assemble the Sandwiches: Set half of the slices buttered side down, and cover with the cheese slices, folding them over if they extend past the edges. Layer the ham and turkey over the cheese, and spread the jam over the turkey. Place the top slice of bread on, buttered side up.
Grill the sandwiches on both sides.
Pour the oil into a deep heavy-duty saucepan to fill it halfway. Heat the oil to 350°F (175°C), measuring the temperature on a deep-fat thermometer.
Cut the sandwiches on a diagonal into thirds, to make 9 triangular pieces.
Stir the batter. Dip each sandwich piece into the batter, thoroughly coating it. Fry the pieces 2 or 3 at a time, being careful not to overcrowd them in the pan. Cook them for about 3 minutes on each side, until they’re nicely browned, and transfer to a paper towel to drain. Allow the oil to come back up to temperature before you fry the next batch of sandwiches.
Place the sandwiches on a platter. Sift a very heavy layer of powdered sugar over them, and serve with a side of jam.
YIELD: 9 pieces
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