Dish of the Week: The Monte Cristo

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re taking a look at Monte Cristo sandwiches.

Similar to the French croque-monsieur, the Monte Cristo is a griddled or deep-fried sandwich stuffed with ham and cheese (usually Emmental or Gruyère). Sometimes, sliced turkey or chicken is added. Whereas its French cousin gets smothered in a béchamel sauce, the Monte Cristo takes on a slightly sweeter note, through either a light dusting of powdered sugar, fruit preserves or both. But first, the sandwich takes a dip in egg batter, à la French toast.

According to What’s Cooking America, the Americanized version of French grilled cheese first started appearing in American cookbooks in the 1930s, under names like French Sandwich, Toasted Ham Sandwich and French Toasted Cheese Sandwich. It gained momentum throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, eventually becoming a full-fledged trend thanks to being featured at a duo of restaurants in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square.

If the thought of a slightly sweet ham and cheese sandwich sounds slightly odd to you, we say don’t knock it till you try it.

This recipe, from Serious Eats, uses thick-cut brioche and adds a slather of Dijon mustard and red currant jelly for extra depth of flavor. 

Monte Cristo Sandwich

Ingredients makes 4 sandwiches
1 cup red currant jelly
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 slices brioche loaf, sliced 1-inch thick (see note above)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)
12 slices ham
8 slices Swiss cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar for dusting

In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup jelly and 2 tablespoons butter. Spread 4 slices bread with mixture. Spread remaining 4 slices with (optional) mustard. Top each buttered slice in this order: 1 slice cheese, 3 slices ham and 1 slice cheese. Top with bread (mustard side-down, if using) and press down lightly. Butter both sides of sandwiches with additional 4 tablespoons butter and set aside.

In small saucepan or bowl in microwave, heat remaining 3/4 cup currant jelly. Stir to smooth, cover and keep warm.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and salt. Carefully dip one sandwich in egg mixture and allow to soak for 10 to 15 seconds. Turn and soak for another 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer sandwich to cooling rack set inside rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

Heat 1/4 cup oil and 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides but butter is not brown. Fry 2 sandwiches at a time, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board. If skillet is dry, add remaining 1/4 cup oil and remaining 2 tablespoons butter and repeat with remaining 2 sandwiches.

Cool sandwiches 2 minutes, then cut in half, dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve with warm currant jelly.
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano