Cheap Recipe: Monte Cristos

16 Feb

 

Breakfast? Dinner? Who cares?

 

This is one of those meals that is appropriate at any time of day — some restaurants keep it on their breakfast menu, while others feature it as a lunch special. We’ve made it for supper many times at my house. It just works. A warm and melty union between French toast and ham sammies, I often serve it with a sidecar of salsa instead of the traditional strawberry jam. Something about the sweet and salty combination seems to just cry out for spicy tomatoes. But maybe that’s just me. Regardless of garnish, if you haven’t tried making Monte Cristos, you’re in for a treat.

 

Just like Edmond Dantes, the Monte Cristo sandwich is a perfect blend of warm sweetness and daring machismo.

 

The Monte Cristo is essentially a fried sandwich made from lunchmeat, cheese, and french toast. The most important part of making a good one is mastering stovetop timing, so your end result is the perfect blend of crispy and melty, and so your French Toast doesn’t burn or get soggy.

It’s not hard, though, and the economy of timing will come with practice, which gives you the perfect excuse to make them a lot. Which is a good idea, because they are awesome.

Preheat a spayed skilled over MEDIUM-LOW heat. Start by preparing the French toast batter. For four Monte Cristos, crack 3 eggs into a cereal bowl and beat lightly with about 1/4 cup of milk. Stir in about 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and cinnamon to taste.

Before you go any further, make sure you have some warm maple syrup ready and on hand near the stovetop with a basting brush or small spoon, and unwrap four square slices of processed cheese (I use the Swiss singles available at ALDI, but white or yellow American will do, too.) Put the cheese and many thin slices of ham (or turkey, if you want) on a plate near the stove as well, so you’ll have them ready when you need them.

 

Egg mixture before being beaten.

 

Take a piece of stale bread, dip one side into the egg mixture and quickly flip it over to the other side. Pull it back out of the mixture, sling off any excess coating, and immediately place it in the skillet. If you’re using a large skillet, you can double up and make two at a time.

 

As soon as you flip the first side, brush it lightly with maple syrup.

 

As soon as the first side is just beginning to turn golden, flip it. Immediately drizzle the golden side with a small amount of maple syrup while the other side begins to cook.

As soon as you’ve added the maple syrup, lay a slice of cheese over the syrup. (If this seems weird at first, just think of it as the Greatest McDonald’s McGriddle That Ever Lived.)

 

Layer with cheese and ham before folding in half.

 

Over the cheese, layer a few thin slices of ham. Press the whole stack down with the backside of your spatula and hold it there for a few seconds to give the cheese and syrup a chance to start melting into the bread. As soon as the cheese is sticky enough to hold things in place, quickly fold the sandwich over diagonally, making a triangular sandwich.

Press down again with the back side of your spatula for several seconds. At this point you should be able to flip the triangle over without it falling apart on you. When both sides of the triangle are golden, use the spatula to transfer it onto a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

(I think I’ve mentioned before that I keep a set of large-sized salt/pepper shakers filled with cinnamon and powdered sugar for easy access on breakfast and dessert projects. It’s so handy.)

 

Fresh fruit or veggies make a nice side dish.

 

Serve the Monte Cristos as they come off the skillet for optimal texture, or if you need to serve them all at once, you can place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet as they come off the heat and retain them in the oven at 200 degrees for a few minutes until they’re all ready to serve. In this case, you might want to hold off on the powdered sugar until serving time so it doesn’t get wet or pasty.

These go nicely with fresh slices of orange or tomato, or the aforementioned salsa/strawberry jam options.

 

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