The Monte Cristo
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In the early 2000s, we had Sunday brunch with our late friend Bob every week at one of his favorite restaurants. Bob owned a travel agency back in the day and had traveled all over the globe, so he was full of interesting stories and shenanigans. He ordered the same thing every week: The Monte Cristo. When I asked him why, he said it was the best thing on the menu. I tried it one day and it was incredibly good. The waiter knew us well by now and it was easy to convince him to give me tips on what made their sandwich better than others.

While it is like the French Croque Monsieur, the Monte Cristo as we know it today is an American invention. It entered the scene in the 1950s in Southern California and exploded in popularity after the Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland began serving it in the 1960s. Since that time, the Monte Cristo Sandwich has made leaps and bounds in culinary circles and can be found on menus of fine restaurants, delis, and other sandwich shops.

The sandwich is typically served with raspberry jam, but I prefer a raspberry sauce. The Barefoot Contessa posted an easy and delicious recipe for raspberry sauce that can be served on almost anything. I usually make the sauce first and here is the recipe for 2 cups. Into a small saucepan add 1 half-pint of fresh raspberries, ½ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 4 minutes stirring occasionally. Let it cool slightly and add the mixture to a food processor fitted with a steel blade along with 1 cup of seedless raspberry jam and 1 tablespoon of Framboise (I usually use brandy). Process until smooth, transfer to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Now make the sandwich. Lay one piece of white bread on your board and cover with a slice of cheese (Provolone, Swiss, Gouda, shredded Gruyere). Then lay one slice of ham on top. Lightly spread Dijon mustard on a second slice of bread and lay this on the ham mustard side down. Spread good mayonnaise on the top of that slice of bread, add a slice of turkey, a slice of the same cheese and top with a third slice of bread. Pressing down lightly, trim off the edges of all four sides of the sandwich with a serrated knife. Continuing to press down lightly, wrap the sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and pop into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Here is the great time-saving aspect about this recipe. If you want to serve it for guests at brunch, you can make the sandwich(s) and the sauce the night before and finish cooking the next day. As you cook them, put them on a parchment-lined sheet pan and keep warm in a 200-degree oven until you have cooked them all and are ready to serve.

To cook the Monte Cristo, for 2 – 3 sandwiches whisk together 2 eggs and ¼ cup of half-and-half in a shallow dish. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large non-stick sauté pan on medium low heat. When the butter is bubbly, dip the sandwich on all sides into the batter then carefully add to the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes or until brown then gently flip and cook the other side for about 3 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of the raspberry sauce on top.

I think your guests will be impressed and love these Monte Cristo Sandwiches. Bob said they were the best thing on the menu. Enjoy!

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