Simple pleasures

Count on Monte Cristo


monte cristo sandwich. Grilled ham and cheese, coated in egg and fried in clarified butter.
You currently find me lying on the floor groaning. I’ve overdone it. And it’s only just past breakfast. Yesterday was a low calorie day for me so I’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, all to bring you this. A sandwich.

Yet this is no ordinary sandwich. In honour of national sandwich week, I present to you the Monte Cristo. A marvel of simplicity. It’s really just a version of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, but if ever one were to be presented at the Great Exhibition, this should be it.

Britain may have invented the sandwich, but the rest of the world has done the usual thing of running with an idea and making it better. America in particular has turned them into an art form.
I once ordered pastrami on rye at the Carnegie Diner in New York (the first time I’d been to the city) and not only did it come with enough pickles for a small family, the sandwich was the size of a small cow. The amount of meat inside was enough to make you sweat protein, but it was truly fantastic.

In faded and yellowing 1970s polaroids of us in the kitchen, you can often see a Breville sandwich maker proudly sitting on the bench, dripping cheese and possibly about to blow up. I loved the classic English ham and cheese toastie that used to appear from within. I thought buttering the outside of the bread before cooking it was hysterical, but the charred and tasty almost burned lines in the bread made it really special. Years later, at art college, having claimed the machine for my student kitchen, it finally gave up the ghost after I’d used it to cook bacon in one too many times. Bloody good bacon, mind.

Generally I just grill this sandwich without the egg coating, but this week it’s in its party dress and doing some twirls on the dancefloor. In goes Emmental instead of grated Cheddar; I’ve added sliced turkey as well and then a dollop of mayonnaise and a spreading of Dijon mustard. To serve, dust it with some icing sugar if you like and add some redcurrant jelly or maple syrup. Just make sure you book the day off work if you have it for breakfast.

Ingredients (makes 4)
8 slices of fairly trashy white bread (thickly sliced)
4 slices of turkey breast
8 slices of smoked ham
8 slices of Emmental, or similar
Dijon mustard
2 eggs, beaten with a little milk in a shallow and wide bowl
Clarified butter to cook
Redcurrant jelly or maple syrup to serve

Make the sandwiches by spreading mayonnaise and mustard on each slice of bread then topping with a slice of turkey, two slices of ham then two slices of cheese. Put a slice of bread on top (it wouldn’t be a sandwich otherwise would it? Do you really need me to tell you this?)
Heat a cast iron pan and add a couple of tablespoons of clarified butter. I normally have a tin of ghee from the supermarket in the fridge, but you can easily make your own. If you can’t be bothered, just use butter. It won’t be as nice though.
Dip a sandwich on both sides in the beaten egg then fry each side until golden brown, as you would French toast.
Cut in half and serve. Then lie down.


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