Today marks 5 years since I married the smartest, most hard working, compassionate & stubborn man I know. To kick off our wedding anniversary, I got up early & made him his favorite breakfast dish, Monte Cristo sandwiches. Monte Cristos are an American variation of the French fried cheese & ham sandwiches, Croque Madam or Croque Monsieurs.
To keep it authentic, I used a fresh demi baguette, ham, & tangy Dijon mustard. I wanted to add a sweet element to balance with the salty ham & cheddar since it was breakfast. I opted for a generous amount of fig preserves on the inside of the sandwich & fresh figs atop them. I was so excited to see figs pop up in the grocery store. I just couldn’t resist buying a few even though they came all the way from California. They were nice on these sandwiches but not near as good as I know they’ll be at peak season when we can get them locally come July & August. Can’t wait! This concoction will definitely be on rotation throughout the summer. It’s a hearty, melt-in-your-mouth, sweet & savory delight. Here’s the recipe. Don’t skip the Dijon mustard. The way it pairs with the rest of the ingredients may surprise you!
Fig & Cheddar Monte Cristo Sandwiches
1 demi baguette, cut into 8 slices
1/3 cup whole milk
1 & 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2-3 tablespoons best quality (preferably homemade) fig preserves
8 thick slices sharp cheddar cheese from a block, or 4 slices folded in half if using pre-sliced cheese
4 slices medium cut ham
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Maple syrup for drizzling
4 figs, sliced
Whisk the eggs & the milk thoroughly, pour into a square baking dish (deeper rather than long & shallow) & set aside. Next, assemble the Monte Cristos. You will end up with 4 small sandwiches so lay the bread slices accordingly for easy assembling. Spread Dijon mustard on one slice of baguette & the fig preserves on the other. Fold your ham slice & place over the slice of bread with the mustard then add the cheddar cheese slices (folded if using pre-sliced). Gently set the assembled Monte Cristos into your baking dish. Let them sit for a minute or so. Once soaked, turn them over in the baking dish to ensure the entire sandwich gets soaked in the egg/milk mixture. After about 5 or so minutes they are ready to cook. If you’re using stale french bread they can soak longer, potentially even over night. I used fresh bread & didn’t want the slices to get too soggy that they fall apart so play it by ear.
Melt your butter & olive oil in a frying pan on medium high heat & cook your sandwiches 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown & crispy. They should resemble french toast. This is essentially a french toast sandwich after all. If you are cooking them in batches, store them in the oven on 250 degrees to keep warm. Once ready to eat, sift powdered sugar over them, drizzle with pure maple syrup & top with the sliced figs. Enjoy with a warm cup of coffee!
Note: I had a lot of egg/milk mixture. I can’t stand to waste food so I sprinkled the leftover mixture with salt & pepper & made scrambled eggs as a side. You could alternatively use less eggs but I really wanted the bread to be completely soaked. The result is a nice fluffy yet crisp sandwich. Your call!