You’ve not had an amazing grilled cheese sandwich until you’ve made this Monte Cristo! Layers of salty ham, luscious gruyere cheese, tangy dijon mustard and sweet raspberry preserves dipped in this French toast mixture and then grilled to perfection!
I have a confession…
*hangs her head*
I’ve been holding out on you. <deep sigh> This recipe I made about a year ago *ducks to miss the shoe that someone just threw at me*. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. For the past year I kept saying to myself “You have to post that sandwich. You need to get your butt in gear and post this. People will flip over it!” But I didn’t listen. Honestly there is no real reason why held out on sharing this. Monte Cristo sandwiches aren’t a new thing but for some reason I posted everything but this. Like we’re talking recipes I literally just created, took the photos the same day and posted the recipe the next day.
I suck, I know.. but you still love me… right???
And I guess while I’m treating this like church, I might as well confess one more thing. Mr. Fantabulous does not like this but he does not hate it either. What that means is he refused to try it; not even a single bite. He said and I’m quoting here “That is NOT French Toast, that is NOT Grilled Cheese. That is a Frankenstein concoction that I will not be a part of.” Frankenstein? I didn’t exactly create a monster here dude. LOL big baby!
But hey whatevs, I’m TOTALLY ok with eating this all myself. I had my first Monte Cristo back in the 90’s when I was traveling back and forth to New York pretty much every 4 days for work for about 2 years. Now while I love bagels, there are just only so many one can eat. This one time while I was there, the install that we were doing for one of the networks was not working. No matter what I tried I could not get the one application to work. I tried 9 million things and nothing worked.
It was about 10pm and that’s when I realized “OMG we never had dinner!” My guys, so dedicated to the task never said a word about being hungry and I honestly was so engrossed with the issue that I forgot about food. I stopped what I was doing and looked at my guys, so tired, beat and exhausted. I said “Guys I totally forgot about dinner. I’m so sorry. Let’s break and go eat. We need a break. Let’s step away from this and go not think about work for a bit.
Within in seconds they all had their gear and were waiting for me at the elevator… smiling. Since it’s New York, everything is open at 10pm which, when you’re a small town girl like me you’re not used to “stuff” being up that late. We trekked down to this little deli off the beaten path. The booths were tiny, the floor was missing tiles, the drop ceiling had water stains. However I’m not one to judge a place by its cover. Some of the worst ‘dives’ I’ve been in have had some of the most amazing foods. So we found a booth and grabbed the ketchup-stained menus.
When the waitress came over she looked beat, meaning life just beat the crap out of her. But as she approached we all greeted her with a big smile and I asked her how she was doing. She actually paused and then she smiled. She actually thanked me for asking and that it was actually nice to see smiling faces. Of course we all did the standard “What would you recommend?” Without missing a beat, she leaned in and said “Listen I’m going to be honest. Pretty much everything here is eh.. so so EXCEPT our Monte Cristo. I will only eat that because it’s absolutely amazing.” and then she walked away.
Like she legit walked away, grabbed our drinks and walked away again. When she started to walk away the second time the one guy said “Um can we order, please?” she just chimed over her should “Nah I got you on this. Trust me guys.” and disappeared back between the swinging doors. Um.. k???
About 15 minutes later she approached carrying a tray that was rather impressive. I’m lucky I can carry 2 plates plus 2 cans of soda without spilling something. Not her. She hoisted up this huge tray carrying 6 large plates plus sides and drinks! The one guy said “OMG I can’t even do that! I think I’m in love!” Before us she set down this plate of home-style cut fresh fries that were still glistening from the oil, a cup of maple syrup, a fruit cup and this HUGE confectioners’ sugar covered sandwich.
Well you guys all know me – if I’m not sure what something is I’ll make this face. Like a “um huh?” face. She said “Honey trust a stranger on this. Just slice on a corner, dip it in the maple syrup and eat.” Sure, trust a complete stranger .. yeah, um okay. But I was hungry and I did.
Dear God I’m SO HAPPY THAT I DID! This thing was unlike anything I had ever eaten. It was so incredible. Cheesy, sweet, tangy, salty and that French toast coating. Oh dear god. Is this heaven?
Well the guys loved it so much they all ordered a 2nd helping. I wanted to but I also knew I would burst if I did. About an hour or so had past and it was time to get back to the office. As she came back with our change I thanked her again for the recommendation and said you’ll be seeing us very soon. We went back to that diner every day for the next week and only got that sandwich. It’s funny how only a few ingredients can be transformed into something truly remarkable!
Over the years when I’ve gone back to New York I’ll stop in to see her but sadly she’s no longer there. I’ll order the sandwich and while it’s good, it’s just not quite as good as when Mary served it. Her personality and charisma also made that dish awesome.
A few years ago I was going through a box in one of my closets and I found some of my old stuff from that job – trinkets and so forth and I immediately thought about that sandwich. Thing is I never made it on my own. I just forgot about it. So I sat in the kitchen trying to remember what was all on it. Given the diner I knew the ingredients had to be simple. They used this Texas toast but since I didn’t have any on hand I used brioche. The rest of the stuff I had on hand. I’ll be honest, the first one didn’t turn out as good, nor did the 2nd, 3rd of 6th. It just didn’t taste right. And that’s why I remember the Dijon. That was the secret.
I was down to my last 2 slices of bread (yes I literally had 6 sandwiches sitting on my counter that I didn’t like) when I decided to try it the way I have the recipe below. When it came off that griddle and I dusted it with the confectioners’ sugar I just knew it was going to be the one.
I cut off the tip and dipped it in a little maple syrup. Honestly that bite moved me. It had taken me back to that little dinner, off the beaten path. I had done Mary proud. Since that day this is the only way I’ll make them. The only thing I’ll switch up is I’ll either use Texas toast or brioche slices but other than that, I will not change a thing – no needed. This sandwich is perfect.
- 4 slices thick cut Texas Toast (or thick cut brioche)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 6 thin slices baked ham
- 4 sliced Gruyere cheese
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 4 tsp raspberry preserves
- 2 tsp butter, unsalted
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- *optional maple syrup
- In a shallow bowl beat together the eggs, milk and pepper; set aside.
- Spread the 2 tsp of mustard on 2 slices of the bread – just one side. Spread the 4 tsp of raspberry preserver on the other 2 slices of bread – just the one side.
- Place the slices of bread with the mustard spread on it, mustard side up and top each with 1 slice of cheese, 3 slices of ham and then another slice of cheese. Place the raspberry topped bread, raspberry side facing down on top of the cheese (yes you’re placing the raspberry preserves on top of the cheese) to form a sandwich.
- Preheat a griddle pan over medium heat and add the butter.
- When the butter begins to foam, grab one sandwich and place it in the egg mixture for about 10-15 seconds then flipping carefully making sure all sides are all coated with the mixture. Place the sandwich onto the griddle. You want to make sure the bread soaks up the mixture but not get soggy. Repeat for the other sandwich. *note – if you have a little egg wash mixture (say 2 Tbl left) leftover after you’ve placed your second sandwich on the griddle I like to slowly pour it over the bread on the griddle as that will soak in.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to cook for about 6-7 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom before flipping. Only flip once. Continue to cook for another 6-7 minutes or until golden brown. *Optional – using tongs stand up the sandwich and press each side onto the pan for about 30 seconds to crisp up the sides.
- Remove from the pan and plate. Allow to cool for a minute then cut. To serve dust with confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup to dip it in