Sunday, November 23, 2003
Monte Cristo Sandwiches:Recipe
Brunch. Such a problematic concept. Don't get me wrong, it's great. Would I have chosen it as the meal for my wedding if I didn't love it so much? But it's the heading out of the house on a Sunday morning, and invariably standing in line waiting for a table that ruins it. Then there's the whole sweet or savory thing. The eggs benedict or the blueberry pancakes? Bagel cream cheese and lox or French toast and maple syrup? This may be how smoky meats like sausage and bacon became such popular brunch side dishes, born from the difficulty of deciding what to order in the first place.
Today the solution was simple. Homemade Monte Cristo sandwiches. I wish I could tell you some fabulous story about the Monte Cristo, but I can't. In doing the research even the esteemed James Beard Organization concedes the origins are unclear. Where did it come from? Why dip a sandwich in egg? Why is it named Monte Cristo? The name seems to date back to as early as 1941, when it starts showing up on menus in Southern California, coincidentally the same year as the movie, The Son of Monte Cristo was released. Beyond that, there's not much to tell. There are very few stories about it and they aren't very compelling. Not nearly as compelling as an odd sandwich with several different variations--sometimes made with turkey, other times with chicken or ham, sometimes served with jam other times sprinkled with powdered sugar, sometimes triple decker, sometimes not. The best thing about it is it's like several different dishes in one, a ham and cheese sandwich, French toast, and bread and jam. Sweet and savory, solved in one fell swoop.
Here's how I make it, I make no claims of authenticity only of tastiness:
Monte Cristo Sandwiches
4 slices sourdough French bread
4 slices Fontina cheese
4 thin slices of black forest ham
splash of milk
fruity jam of your choice, strawberry or blackberry recommended
Spread one slice of bread for each sandwich with mustard, leave the other slice plain. Place the cheese and ham on the bread, then carefully dip the sandwich in a combination of beaten egg and milk. Fry in a pan with oil or butter until cheese melts, about five minutes. Serve with a spoonful of jam spread on top. Eat with a fork and knife.