My father loved cheese and jam sandwiches—cheddar and apricot, Swiss and raspberry. He would make them when we went hunting or fishing. Without refrigeration on the banks of a stream or huddled in a duck blind, he didn’t worry about them spoiling like he would with meat sandwiches. And they were better than peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I still eat an occasional cheese and jam sandwich.

The hot jams, like Raspberry Jalapeno jam, with cheese make particularly good sandwiches. They are good grilled too.

Some years later, I discovered Monte Cristo sandwiches, again with jam and cheese but this time with meat added, usually ham, and with a touch of mustard. I slowly became a fan. We usually found them in rusty diners or lonely truck stops, not in the cities. They were always coated in a batter and fried on a griddle or deep fried.

grilledSandwichSomewhere it dawned on me that Monte Cristo sandwiches were a type: you could batter and fry nearly any sandwich. That’s what we’re going to do today, make battered and fried sandwiches. Cool. Easy to make. Very versatile.

How to Make Battered and Fried Sandwiches

Traditionally, Monte Cristo sandwiches are made with ham or turkey and cheese, dipped in batter, and then fried. But like most things in cooking, there is a great deal of variation with regional and local favorites.

We know of three ways to make Monte Cristo sandwiches: bake them, deep fry them, and grill them. I grew up around deep fried Monte Cristo sandwiches, sandwiches that were dipped in a heavy batter and fried until they were crispy. Especially in the summertime, that seems too heavy. Recently, we discovered a recipe for baked Monte Cristo sandwiches. That seems like too much trouble. It’s easier to grill them. They are not as crispy as deep fried but they are very good.

Traditionally Monte Cristo sandwiches have a layer of raspberry jam or strawberry jam between the layers of meat and cheese. It’s part of what gives these sandwiches character but you can leave it out. MonteCristoSandwiches-topWe made some with raspberry jam with seeds but the seeds bothered us a bit; we liked them better with seedless raspberry jam. Even better—because it is tarter—is red currant jelly or black currant jelly (black currant is tarter than red currant).

If you can make French toast, you can make Monte Cristo sandwiches. In fact, making a Monte Cristo sandwich on the griddle is no different than making stuffed French toast.

Traditional Monte Cristo Sandwiches

This is a traditional recipe though grilled instead of deep fried. If you want to deep fry them, dip them in tempura batter.

8 slices hearty bread
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 slices of provolone or Swiss cheese
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham

Directions

  1. Set aside eight slices of hearty bread. If all you have is very light bread that may come apart when dipped in the egg mixture, toast the bread.
  2. Mix the eggs, milk, salt, dry mustard, and white pepper together in a shallow bowl.
  3. Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on the bread slices. Place a slice of cheese on four of the slices. Spread jam on the four cheese slices. Cover the jam with the deli ham. Add another thin layer of jam, then cheese, and then top with the remaining bread slices to make a sandwich.
  4. Heat a griddle or large frying pan. Melt a little butter just before frying the sandwiches.
  5. Dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture, turn the sandwich in the egg mixture, and place the sandwiches on the hot griddle. Fry as you would a grilled cheese sandwich, turning the sandwich when one side is golden brown.
  6. Serve hot.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches with Lingonberry Jam

My favorite after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich is a turkey sandwich made with lingonberry jam. Lingonberries are beautiful bright red berries, a cousin to a cranberry, with a unique, intense flavor. In Scandinavia, they are used not only as a jam but as a main dish accompaniment as with cranberry sauce or chutney. Lingonberry jam goes well with both white and red meats.

8 slices hearty bread
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
8 slices of provolone or Swiss cheese
1/3 cup lingonberry jam
1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham or turkey

Directions

  1. Set aside eight slices of hearty bread. If all you have is very light bread that may come apart when dipped in the egg mixture, toast the bread.
  2. Mix the eggs, milk, salt, and white pepper together in a shallow bowl.
  3. Place a slice of cheese on four of the slices. Spread jam on the four cheese slices. Cover the jam with the deli ham or turkey. Add another thin layer of jam, then cheese, and then top with the remaining bread slices to make a sandwich.
  4. Heat a griddle or large frying pan. Melt a little butter just before frying the sandwiches.
  5. Dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture, turn the sandwich in the egg mixture, and place the sandwiches on the hot griddle. Fry as you would a grilled cheese sandwich, turning the sandwich when one side is golden brown.
  6. Serve hot.

Other Monte Cristo Sandwich Ideas

I raided their stash of ingredients, stacked them in piles, and sketched out recipes. As I was writing this article, Ali and Casey were making savory crepes in the test kitchen—really good savory crepes. But that’s another story…

“Make these sandwiches and take pictures –please,” I interrupted them.

MonteCristoSandwiches-club

Club Monte Cristo                 

  • Bacon
  • Cheddar
  • Tomato
  • Mayonnaise
  • Baby Spinach

We dipped these in an egg batter and cooked them on a griddle.

MonteCristoSandwiches-Rueben

Turkey Rueben Monte Cristo                 

  • Turkey Deli meat
  • Sauerkraut
  • Swiss
  • Mayonnaise
  • Peach Pineapple Jelly

We did these both ways, on the griddle and deep fried.