Monte Cristo From 'Prune'

Monte Cristo From 'Prune'

[Photograph: Eric Wolfinger]

Prune's brunch is known as being one of the best in the city, and is worth the two hour wait, even on a chilly, hungover morning. One of the big draws is the Monte Cristo, an outrageous, deep-fried, French-toast/ ham-and-cheese hybrid. Gabrielle Hamilton shares the recipe in her new cookbook, Prune. She builds the triple-decker sandwich on white bread with loads of butter, French ham, Swiss Cheese, and roasted turkey. This gets soaked briefly in eggs and milk and griddled in clarified butter. And THEN deep-fried. Dusted with powdered sugar, served with red currant jelly and fried eggs, it is crusty, savory, sweet, and irresistible, despite my best efforts to do so. My only quibble would be that I would like things a touch saltier; I'll be adding a pinch of salt to the custard should I make this again.

The recipe itself should be read thoroughly before undertaking. There is clarified butter in the ingredient list, but no instructions on how to make it, so be sure to have already figured that one out. There's also no mention of oil for frying in the list, but you'll need a couple quarts —enough to fill a large pot about halfway full (deep enough to accommodate your triple-decker). The only time she addresses frying in the recipe is to say, "...and then deep-fry at 350° for 1 minute to 90 seconds," so don't forget to have your oil pre-heating before you griddle the sandwiches. Also note that "To Plate," includes 2 fried eggs per serving, the red currant jelly, and "10X" (confectioner's) sugar for dusting over the sandwich, none of which are in the ingredient list. This is a very different style of recipe writing than most of us are used to, and it doesn't make things particularly easy for the home cook, but the food is worth the effort to adjust to Hamilton's approach.

Notes: Pullman bread, also called pain de mie, is white sandwich bread baked in a particular square, lidded loaf pan. If you can't find find a Pullman loaf, any high-quality, sturdy sandwich bread should do.

  • Yield:Serves 2
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:30 minutes

Ingredients

  • For the sandwiches
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 slices French ham
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 4 slices roasted turkey breast
  • 6 slices white Pullman loaf
  • clarified butter
  • For the batter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk

Directions

  1. 1.

    To assemble:

    Butter all six slices of bread “wall to wall.”
    Neatly and within the confines of the bread, lay down the ham on 2 of the slices. Follow with the cheese.
    Place a piece of buttered bread, butter side up, on top of the cheese. Add the turkey in the same fastidious manner.
    Place the last slice of bread on top of the sandwich, butter side down.

  2. 2.

    Neatly trim the crusts, cut in half on the diagonal, and pack neatly away between parchment sheets.

  3. 3.

    To pick up:

    Blend egg and milk well.
    Let each sandwich sit in the batter long enough to really drink in some of the custard, but not so long as to become soggy and unmanageable on your griddle.

  4. 4.

    Slick the hot griddle with a small ladle of clarified butter and set the soaked cristo on it quickly. Do not flip until full golden crust has formed—otherwise it will tear. Griddle second side until golden and then deep-fry at 350° for 1 minute to 90 seconds. Drain well.
    Please be sure to check the temperature in the very center—I have seen some of them looking perfect on the exterior but the centers have been cold and not melted.

  5. 5.

    To plate:
    Warm Cristo, cut in half, stacked.
    2 over-easy eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper. Small ramekin red currant jelly.
    Light dust of 10X sugar on sandwich only.