The first time I ever tried a Monte Cristo was at the Homeport Restaurant in Orleans when I first moved to Cape Cod back in 1981.
The idea of a ham and cheese sandwich cooked French toast style really appealed to me and I remember liking the sandwich. Despite that, it never occurred to me to make them at home until a few years ago when I was casting about for an easy dinner idea for a house full of hungry teenagers.
Now we eat them a couple of times a year. My favorite ham is Boar’s Head rosemary ham, sliced paper thin, so that is what I use for this recipe. I’ve made Monte Cristos with sharp provolone or mild cheddar and either choice is delicious. To kick up the flavor, the Kitchen Genius suggested adding some coarse Dijon mustard and the combination of the spicy mustard with the sweet maple syrup is perfect.
Since we usually have an abundance of eggs, we always top our Monte Cristos with a fried egg. The yolk of the egg adds a silky richness to the flavor of the sandwich that we find especially appealing. But we throw fried eggs on a lot of things in our family, including burgers occasionally, so that choice is optional.
Spread about a half a teaspoon mustard on each of the slices of bread. Make four ham and cheese sandwiches with three slices of cheese and four slices of ham per sandwich layering it cheese, ham, cheese, top slice.
In a large shallow bowl, beat 2 eggs. Add milk, salt and pepper and mix well. Heat electric griddle to medium. Put butter on griddle and spread it with a spatula to cover surface. Dip each sandwich in egg and milk mixture, flipping then over once to saturate both sides and place them on the griddle.
Cook until golden, about 4 – 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4 – 5 minutes. Bread should be golden brown and firm to the touch on both sides. Transfer to plates and fry four eggs over easy or to taste. Top each sandwich with a fried egg and drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of real maple syrup.
Heat a 2 quart frying pan over medium low heat. Place olive oil, onion, red pepper and garlic in a pan and sauté until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomato sauce and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. When sauce starts to bubble, make four indentations in sauce and carefully break eggs into indentations. Cover pan and cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes (poached medium) or until desired doneness for yolk. Garnish with grated Romano cheese and serve with some nice crusty bread for dipping.