What do you get when you cross a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with French toast?
You’re looking at it.
Yum. I love riddles you can eat.
If a sweet and salty handheld that’s dunked in a warm pool of raspberry jam before melting in your mouth sounds like heaven to you, this Monte Cristo recipe is the one you’ve been waiting for all your life.
Maybe you’ve stumbled upon a Monte Cristo, Croque Monsieur, or Croque Madame on a brunch menu before. So what do the famous sandwiches have in common (other than the fact that all three of their names would double as fantastic monikers for a cat)?
First and foremost: ham and cheese. Each of these between-bread creations is essentially a riff on your basic ham and cheese sandwich. And I don’t know about you, but I find that enjoying salty deli ham smushed against gooey cheese is like entering a time machine that sends me straight back to childhood.
The Croque Monsieur features a filling and topping of thick béchamel. Once spread on the exterior of the bread, the rich white sauce is typically sprinkled with a sharp, salty duo of Parmesan and Gruyère. It’s grilled or broiled, and the outcome is a crisp, cheesy crust.
The Croque Madame is the most substantial of the three as it’s assembled in the same way as the Croque Monsieur, and topped with a poached or lightly fried egg. Whoever invented the hashtag #putaneggonit was clearly a Croque Madame enthusiast.
Somewhere in between these two decadent handhelds falls the masterful Monte Cristo.
I may be biased, but I find it to be the standout of the squad. It’s believed to have originated in France as a simplified variation of the Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame.
And while it is a cinch to put together, as far as flavor goes, there’s nothing simple about the VIP treatment that this recipe receives.
Prepared French toast-style (which means a quick dip in egg wash before being grilled in butter), the Monte Cristo stands out thanks to its sweet elements.
If the idea of sprinkling powdered sugar on savory cold cuts sounds a little odd to you, don’t worry. I find just about everyone feels that way at first.
But once you witness the buttery, golden-brown bread being dusted in superfine sugar, you can practically feel each bite melting on your tongue before the sandwich has ever left the plate.
As far as the jam goes, a sweet and tart, fruity component paired with salty flavors is a classic combo.
Just think of all the charcuterie boards you’ve chowed down on.
Now that you’ve got a mind full of Monte Cristos, I bet you’ll start spotting them at restaurants left and right. But anyone can order something off a menu. The best part of cooking at home is fiddling with whatever makes your particular palate perk up.
Triple-deckers make me feel some type of way, but there’s no set requirement as far as the bread count goes. If you’re more of a standard two-slice sandwich maker, step right up. If cutting the crust off makes you feel like a kid again, trim away.
And if you believe the jam belongs on the inside, spread to your heart’s content.
Ready for the recipe? Go forth, my friend, into the land of homemade French sandwiches.
Just don’t forget your spatula.Print
Step up your sandwich game with our Monte Cristo. This handheld is layered with ham and Gruyère, battered, and griddled until melty.
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- Pinch salt
- 12 slices sturdy white bread, such as brioche
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional)
- 2 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (or 8 slices)
- 1 pound thinly sliced deli ham
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Powdered sugar, for serving
- 1 cup raspberry jam, warmed
- In a shallow bowl or dish, whisk the eggs, milk, and pinch of salt together until combined.
- On a work surface or cutting board, lay out 4 pieces of the bread and evenly spread with half of the mayonnaise and mustard. Top each with 1 slice or about an eighth of the shredded Gruyère and a quarter of the sliced ham.
- Top the ham with 1 more slice of bread and then divvy up the remaining ham followed by the cheese. Spread the remaining mayonnaise and mustard on the last 4 slices of bread and place them (mayo side-down) on top of the cheese.
- Firmly press down on each sandwich, then quickly dip each side into the egg and milk mixture, making sure to just coat the bread (not soak it).
- Melt the butter in a large skillet or cast iron pan placed over medium heat.
- When the butter begins to foam and sizzle, add the sandwiches to the skillet, working in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Cook each sandwich until the bread is golden-brown and toasted and the cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes on the first side and 1-2 minutes on the second.
- Remove from the pan and slice the sandwiches. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with warm raspberry jam.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Category: Meat
- Method: Pan-frying
- Cuisine: Sandwich
Keywords: sandwich, monte cristo, ham, gruyere
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
Shred the Gruyère (unless you’re using sliced cheese) and gather the mayo, mustard, ham, and bread, as well as your powdered sugar and jam, eggs, milk, salt, and butter. Measure out all of your ingredients.
Red currant jelly is classic for Monte Cristos if you can find it, but I like to use a good quality raspberry jam or preserves, and this is pretty common as well.
Feel free to substitute another type of Swiss cheese, like Emmentaler. Some people also like to use a combination of turkey and ham. If you go that route, use half a pound of each.
Use a hearty, sturdy white bread like brioche, challah, or a country-style loaf, cut into slices about half an inch thick either at the bakery or grocery store, or using your trusty bread knife.
It’s better to use bread that’s a couple days old, so it’s not too light and airy. Bread that’s too soft will fall apart more easily.
Step 2 – Assemble
Lay 4 pieces of bread down on a clean work surface or large cutting board and evenly spread each slice with mayonnaise and mustard, using about half of the total that you measured out.
Store-bought mayonnaise works just fine, but homemade mayonnaise will take this recipe up another notch.
Top each with 1 slice of Gruyère or about an eighth of the shredded cheese, and then evenly distribute half of the ham on top.
Add another slice of bread to each, and distribute the remaining ham and cheese.
Spread the remaining mayonnaise and mustard on the last 4 slices of the bread and place them (mayo side-down) on top of the cheese to complete each sandwich.
You can loosely wrap them in plastic wrap and weigh them down with a press or a cast iron pan for a few minutes before dipping them into the egg wash if you like, to compress the ingredients.
Step 3 – Make the Egg Wash and Dip the Sandwiches
In a shallow bowl or dish, whisk together the eggs, milk, and pinch of salt until combined. The eggs should be beaten well.
Firmly press down on each sandwich to condense the ingredients slightly if you didn’t press them, and then quickly dip each side into the egg and milk mixture, making sure you’re just coating the bread not soaking it. Be careful not to oversaturate the bread with the egg wash or it will fall apart.
If you like, you can also wait to quickly dunk them just before adding them to the pan in the next step, to avoid sogginess.
Step 4 – Grill
If you’re grilling them in batches, turn your oven on low (around 170°F) and keep the finished Monte Cristos warm on a rack set into a baking sheet so they don’t get soggy, until you’re ready to serve.
In a large skillet or a cast iron pan to melt the butter over medium heat.
When the butter begins to foam and sizzle, add the sandwiches to the skillet, working in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan.
Grill until the bread is golden-brown and toasted and the cheese is melted, for about 2 to 3 minutes on the first side and 1 to 2 minutes on the second.
Transfer to the oven to keep warm if cooking in batches.
Step 5 – Slice and Serve
Just before slicing and plating the sandwiches, place the jam in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for about 30 seconds, or warm it up over low heat in a small saucepot. Put it on the table with your favorite serving spoon, or divide between individual ramekins for serving.
Slice each one in half, and sprinkle the tops with powdered sugar – I like to use a fine sieve or flour sifter for this. Serve with sides of the warmed raspberry jam, or drizzle a little on top.
The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
To prepare recipes with fairly short lists of ingredients, make sure you’re picking high-quality ingredients that will really shine. For me, it all starts with the bread.
I’m a whole-grain, extra-seed kinda girl on most days, but the Monte Cristo begs to be built on sturdy white bread. Lucky for you, if you don’t have a bakery nearby or time to whip up a loaf yourself, grocery store shelves today are cluttered with all kinds of artisan choices that make a perfect vehicle for this sandwich.
I’m a sucker for eggy brioche (and making your own is always the start of an epic adventure…), but any of the “country-style” or “farmhouse” loaves out there will all do the trick.
Gruyère is a great choice for getting that Instagram-worthy cheese pull, but I occasionally give a nod to the Croque Monsieur by adding a little parm between the layers of my Monte Cristo. How will you put your own spin on this handheld?
Share your favorite sandwich secrets in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
There are so many stars in the sandwich world that it’s hard to keep track. Here are three recipes you can always count on:
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 3, 2014. Last updated on March 12, 2022.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”