Thursday, July 23, 2020

Baked Monte Cristo French Toast

Somehow, a chain restaurant didn't make the cut for Taste Atlas' Top 6 Monte Cristo sandwiches. I think Bennigan's in Wichita was the only place I ever personally tried this sandwich. (Bennigan's is no more in Wichita, so we're outta luck - at least, at that restaurant.)

A variation appeared on The County Line table when Jill's family visited during wheat harvest. The day before, I had prepared a spiral ham, so I knew I needed ways to use the extra meat. The Baked Monte Cristo French Toast recipe was in my "to-try" pile, so it was perfect timing to begin the day with a hearty breakfast. 

Taste Atlas describes it as: "an American sandwich consisting of two slices of white bread filled with a slice of cheese, ham and turkey or chicken meat. The combination is dipped in beaten eggs and fried in butter, resulting in a delicious, calorie-packed concoction that is crispy on the exterior while tender and custardy on the interior."

What's not to like, right?

That website says the first Monte Cristo was served in the 1950s in southern California, but some people claim that the sandwich is just a variation on the classic French Croque Monsieur.

What's Cooking America's website says the croque monsieur was originated in a Paris cafe in 1910 and consisted of Gruyere cheese and lean ham between two slices of crust-less bread, fried in clarified butter. This sandwich is still a popular snack or casual meal throughout France and Switzerland in most bars and cafes.

Many American cookbooks, published in the 1930s to 1960s, featured this sandwich under different names such as French Sandwich, Toasted Ham Sandwich and French Toasted Cheese Sandwich. Although there are no existing documents to support the claim, it is believed that the Monte Cristo Sandwich was first served in southern California in the 1950s.

Then, in 1966 at Disneyland in Anaheim, it appeared on their menu of the Blue Bayou and Tahitian Terrace restaurants in New Orleans Square and has continued to be a popular menu item to this day.
The recipe originator - Favorite Family Recipes - used a boysenberry syrup. I had blueberry syrup on hand, so we used that. You can also fruit jam - rather than syrup - for dipping.

Baked Monte Cristo French Toast
From Favorite Family Recipes
1 loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch slices
8 tbsp. whipped cream cheese
1/2 lb. deli black forest ham
1/2 lb. deli turkey
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
Powdered sugar for dusting
Fruit syrup or jam

Place 7-8 slices of French bread in the baking dish, trying not to over-crowd and squish too much. Spread cream cheese over each slice of bread, then layer on ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese.
Top with remaining slices of French bread (making "sandwiches").

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Pour over bread and let sit for 5 minutes. Turn bread over and cover pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or even overnight. (I refrigerated it overnight.)

Drizzle melted butter over the top and bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Dust with sifted powdered sugar over the top. Serve immediately with syrup or jam.

I also served with fresh fruit.

If you're looking for a more savory way to use leftover ham, try this Ham & Cheese Quiche recipe.
Plantation Turkey is a favorite recipe from a contest sponsored by The Hutchinson News. Despite its name, it also uses diced ham. (I've gotten better at food photos since I took this photo in 2011; however, the recipe is one we usually have if there's leftover ham in the fridge.)

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