Make your own Monte Cristo
Let’s not kid ourselves, there is nothing better than a well made sandwich, especially when you live in Seoul. They are a rare occurrence living on the peninsula, but can make a bad day turn out great. It goes without saying that Korea needs to learn a few things about the art of sandwich making; Grape jelly and potato salad should never find themselves together between two slices of bread. Less is often more when making sandwiches, and the moment you begin throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it, you have lost the battle.
I’ve been indulging myself in hoagies, grinder, BLTs and turkey subs for the better part of a month. But then, I’m in the States visiting family. Obviously, having access to common sandwich ingredients has facilitated my worship of the Earl of Sandwich’s most important addition to the history books. And don’t get me started on cured meats. Oh how I have missed you. I know you can find these things in Seoul, but they often cost an arm and a leg and are sliced so thin they almost blow away in the wind. I long for a thick slice of cured salami, dotted with peppercorn and marbled with creamy white fat. I have resigned myself to the fact that these things are few and far between in Korea, but that doesn’t mean that we must give up. We can satisfy these cravings at home, creating something any restaurant would be proud to serve. I humbly offer a sandwich that will stand strong, even on a freezing February day: the Monte Cristo.
The Monte Cristo is a great sandwich on a cold winter day. The black sheep of the ham and cheese family, a Monte Cristo is dipped in an egg batter and fried until golden brown. I’ve seen it thrown whole into a frier, or just pan-fried on the stove. Either way, it’s a hybrid of french toast, state fair munchies, and the Croque Monsieur (a fancy name for grilled ham and cheese). It seems like a relevant sandwich in this culture of “deep-fried everything,” but we can alter the recipe a bit and make it a little less absurd and more approachable.
I prefer mine cooked on the stovetop. I like the soft, almost custard-like texture the bread takes on with a crisp exterior. It is definitely a fork and knife sandwich, something people might scoff at, but as long as it gets to your mouth it doesn’t really matter, does it? The trick is finding good ham and a quality swiss cheese (gruyere is a great idea). You can experiment with the fillings, but there is something perfect about the marriage of ham and swiss cheese. It is simple, subtle, and speaks to the idea of less is more. It goes well with hearty soups and makes a great, simple dinner on a cold night. We don’t have to suffer anymore. We can take up arms, eat our sandwiches proudly, and lead by example, hopefully watching the rest of the ROK follow in our footsteps.
• 2 slices of thick-cut sandwich bread
• 2 slices of swiss cheese
• 2 slices of ham
• Dijon mustard to taste
• 2 tablespoons of butter
• 2 eggs
• ¼ cup of milk
• ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
• Salt and pepper
Heat the butter in a sauté pan under medium-low heat. While it is melting, assemble the sandwich with the mustard, ham and cheese. I like to put the ham in between the two slice of cheese so it melts evenly through the sandwich. To make the batter, whisk the eggs and milk together, adding the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. When the butter has melted but not browned, dip the sandwich in the egg batter, coating it entirely. Place in the pan and fry until golden brown on one side. Flip, and continue to cook until it’s golden brown on the other side and the cheese has melted. Remove from the pan, slice diagonally and enjoy.