This particular Monte Cristo calls for my preferred combination of ham and cheese for the filling. Please note that whenever there is cheese in a hot sandwich I like to use it as glue. In this instance, the build is as follows: bread, cheese, ham, cheese, bread. Do you see? The cheese makes everything stick together for a neat and compact sandwich.
Butter makes everything better, but it also burns at high heat. This Monte Cristo is dipped in a mixture of eggs and milk and fried, just like French toast. However, the sandwich takes longer to cook, so I fry in vegetable oil. To add flavor, I spread the bread with butter, which, by the way, should be sturdy or stale—no fluffy white slices here, unless you like a soggy sandwich.
As for the accompaniments, I go with warm red currant jelly (some of it is spread inside the sandwich, along with Dijon mustard for a tart-sweet touch) and a dusting of confectioners' sugar.
Note: Day-old bread is best for this recipe. If you can't find brioche loaf substitute with challah.
- 1 cup red currant jelly
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 8 slices brioche loaf, sliced 1-inch thick (see note)
- 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.
small saucepan or microwave, cooling rack, rimmed baking sheet, large skillet, cutting board