Traditionally, Monte Cristo sandwiches are made with ham or turkey and cheese, dipped in batter, and then fried. But like most things in cooking, there is a great deal of variation with regional and local favorites.
We know of three ways to make Monte Cristo sandwiches: bake them, deep fry them, and grill them. I grew up around deep fried Monte Cristo sandwiches, sandwiches that were dipped in a heavy batter and fried until they were crispy. Especially in the summertime, that seams too heavy. Recently, we discovered a recipe for baked Monte Cristo sandwiches. That seems like too much trouble. It’s easier to grill them. They are not as crispy as deep fried but they are very good.
Traditionally Monte Cristo sandwiches have a layer of raspberry jam or strawberry jam between the layers of meat and cheese. It’s part of what gives these sandwiches character but you can leave it out. We made some with raspberry jam with seeds but the seeds bothered us a bit; we liked them better with seedless raspberry jam. Even better—because it is more tart—is red currant jelly or black currant jelly. (Black currant is more tart than red currant.)
If you can make French toast, you can make Monte Cristo sandwiches. In fact, making a Monte Cristo sandwich on the griddle is no different than making stuffed French toast.
Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Kay, our baker, had never had Monte Cristo sandwiches until we introduced her to them. She went home and made them for her husband who thought they were amazing and good.
This is a traditional recipe though grilled instead of deep fried.
8 slices hearty bread
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 slices of provolone or Swiss cheese
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham
- Set aside eight slices of hearty bread. If all you have is very light bread that may come apart when dipped in the egg mixture, toast the bread.
- Mix the eggs, milk, salt, dry mustard, and white pepper together in a shallow bowl.
- Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on the bread slices. Place a slice of cheese on four of the slices. Spread jam on the four cheese slices. Cover the jam with the deli ham. Add another thin layer of jam, then cheese, and then top with the remaining bread slices to make a sandwich.
- Heat a griddle or large frying pan. Melt a little butter just before frying the sandwiches.
- Dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture, turn the sandwich in the egg mixture, and place the sandwiches on the hot griddle. Fry as you would a grilled cheese sandwich, turning the sandwich when one side is golden brown. Serve hot.