Who remembers the Monte Cristo Sandwich at Bennigans? It was layers of deli meat, battered and deep-fried, then served with raspberry jam for dipping. The beloved sandwich was a fork and knife meal, both sweet and savory, a total guilty pleasure.
I was thrilled to find a less-guilty version (if there is such a thing) that bakes in the oven. Not only does it absorb less oil, but it makes less of a mess than trying to pan fry it on the stove. One neighbor tried it and told me it reminded her of the Monte Cristo served at the Pirates of the Caribbean Restaurant at Disneyland.
Ingredients to make four sandwiches
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Dash cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons jam (raspberry, strawberry, or whatever you like - jalapeno jelly would be amazing!)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
8 slices sandwich bread, lightly toasted (this keeps the bread from getting soggy)
Cheese - suggesting 3 slices of either swiss or gruyere per sandwich, however, shredded cheese may be used and you can opt for more or less cheese.
Meat - suggesting both turkey and ham. This would be a phenomenal use of leftover turkey and ham from your holiday table. In the directions below, and shown in the picture above, I used two slices of ham per sandwich and 4-6 slices of turkey per sandwich.
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil or any mild oil like canola work fine
Whisking the custard
I like using my grandmother's glass pie plate to whisk the custard together. Anything that is wide and shallow works beautifully. Wisk the eggs with granulated sugar, salt, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, and heavy cream. Set aside.
Mix the spread
In a small bowl, mix the dijon mustard with the jam. This will be used as a smear on each slice of toast - trust me on this, don't skip. Of course, taste and adjust to your liking. Make sure you have additional jam to serve as a dipping sauce.
Assemble the sammie
Spread a thin layer of the dijon jam mixture on each slice of toast. Assemble the sandwich with cheese on the bottom, followed by a ham, turkey, then repeat, cheese, ham, turkey and finally end with a piece of cheese before placing the top piece of toast, dijon/jam mixture facing down.
Prep the sheet pan
The best part of this recipe is how easy and hands-off this method is - and cleanup is a breeze too!
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Pour oil onto rimmed sheet pan and place in the hot oven for 5-10 minutes to heat.
Carefully remove the sheet pan after the oil is hot and probably smoking a bit.
Dip in custard
Give the custard one last whisk and then dip the tops and bottoms of the sandwiches in the custard mixture. Don't worry too much about the sides, just use your hands to dip the top and bottom. Gently place the sandwiches on the hot sheet pan and repeat with the others.
Toast in the oven
Bake 4 to 5 minutes per side, flipping carefully with a spatula until the sandwiches are golden brown.
I held a cook-along for this lunch sandwich and forgot to show them how I sprinkle powdered sugar over the top before serving. It's really the signature finale of the Monte Cristo - and my kids really get a kick out of it. I spoon a tablespoon of confectioners sugar in a mesh strainer and tap gently over the plates to "make it rain" sugar.
Jim likes to fork-and-knife this sandwich and dips each bite into a little more jam. I found that microwaving the jam for 10-15 seconds, and even adding a splash of water to thin it a little makes the dipping experience better.