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Monte Cristo Sandwiches



A Monte Cristo Sandwich is a fried sandwich.

To make it, you take two pieces of bread, and place a slice of cheese and a slice of meat in the middle.

The cheese used is often American-style Swiss cheese.

The meat is usually cold-sliced chicken, turkey or ham, or a combination thereof, with chicken or turkey being more prevalent overall since the 1970s.

Dismiss the claims of purists who say the meat can only be ham; poultry has in fact been called for in recipes since at least the 1950s.

The top and bottom of the sandwich are dipped in beaten egg, sometimes beaten egg with milk, then the sandwich is pan-fried in butter.

Traditionally, a Monte Cristo Sandwich is served with a small pot of jam on the side.

A variant calls for dipping the sandwich in a batter, and deep-frying it.

In February 2008, Esquire Magazine rated the Monte Cristo at Canter's Deli in Los Angeles as one of the best sandwiches in America. [1] Theirs is "Turkey, Ham & Swiss, Dipped in Egg & Grilled on Egg Bread Served with Powdered Sugar & Jam." Restaurant photos also show it coming with a small fruit nappy of fruit cocktail. The 2011 price was $14.75 US.

The "Trailer Park Monte Cristo" made at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio consists of a peanut butter and jam sandwich, dipped in pancake batter, deep fried, and served dusted with icing sugar (aka powdered sugar.) [1]

History Notes

Monte Cristo sandwiches are of American origin.


Some sources credit the sandwich's invention to the Monte Cristo Hotel in Everett, Washington, in its second building erected in 1925 [2]. The hotel itself was named after the Monte Cristo mining region in the Cascades Mountains. The sandwich, though, actually seems to predate that incarnation of the hotel. We have found references to the sandwich as early as 1923.

"Sandwiches ... Monte Cristo .... 50 c". Advertisement in The Caterer and Hotel Proprietors' Gazette, January 1923. Page 32.

This is the earliest known recipe to date, from 1924:

"Cover six slices of sandwich bread with a slice of American full cream cheese [Ed: sic], cover the cheese with slices of boiled ham, cover with slices of bread, tie with white string, dip in beaten egg and fry a nice brown on both sides in hot butter. Place on hot plates, remove the string and serve." -- Wyman, A.L. Practical Recipes: Help for Epicures and All Who Appreciate Good Cooking. Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles Times. 24 May 1924. Page 6.


Some sources speculate that Monte Cristo sandwiches were based on Croque Monsieur sandwiches. However, the earliest primary source CooksInfo.com has for Croque Monsieur in American print dates from 1943 (see separate entry on Croque Monsieur), 20 years *after* the first reference to Monte Cristo sandwiches in 1923, which would put that speculative origin decidedly out of the running.

Other sources speculate that Monte Cristo sandwiches were based on something called a French sandwich, recipes for which emerged in the early 1930s:

French Sandwich: Spread chopped raw round steak, seasoned with onion, salt and pepper, between slices of bread. Press together firmly, and cut in half. Dip sandwich in egg and milk mixture (one egg to half cup milk and saute in hot fat until brown on both sides." -- May, Elizabeth. Improving on the Earl's Idea. Charleston, West Virginia: The Charleston Daily Mail. 14 August 1932. Page 7, Col. 1.

French Sandwich: Six slices bread; 1 can tuna; jar mayonnaise; jar pickle relish; sliced tomatoes; lettuce; 2 eggs, beaten. Dip bread in beaten eggs, and fry in fat on medium heat. Place on plate, put lettuce leaf on bread, chilled tuna mixed with mayonnaise and pickle, and add slice of tomato. Serve hot." -- Schwin, Mary. Cooking School Recipes. Ogden, Utah: The Ogden Standard. 28 April 1933. Page 15.


One could also speculate a link to the Reuben sandwich, which emerged around the same point of time.

There is perhaps a bit of reason to speculate that the Monte Cristo sandwiches has a west-coast America origin, given the preponderance of early references to it in western states (as seen in the citations below.)

Hy’s Three-Ring Circus MENU MAKING: E. A. Bachman, proprietor of the Annex, Portland, Oregon, features Hy Frager, the famous American chef who peps up menu listings..... “MONTE CRISTO” (Baked Ham and Coquille Swiss Cheese, French Toasted in Butter)... .35" In: Restaurant Management. June 1936. Pages 412 - 413.

"Chef "Joe" Beyl will present three of his most popular recipes for the late-supper menus: “Lobster Thermidore,” “Monte Cristo Sandwich” and “Tomato Stuffed with Tuna.” Detailed recipes for these will be furnished to all persons attending." -- Martha Lee Home Economics Department advertisement in : Oakland Tribune. Oakland, California. 20 September 1936. Page 4s, col 7.

"Mrs. Elliott Scott postcarding back from Hollywood that you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten one of the Monte Cristo sandwiches at the Brown Derby." -- Davis, Jeff. "Around the Plaza" column. San Antonio Light. San Antonio, Texas. 28 July 1937. Page 1, col. 1.

"Monte Cristo Sandwich 75c." -- Advertisement for Club Fortune, Reno Nevada. Appearing in Nevada State Journal. 17 September 1942. Page 1.

"MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH, French fries 90c." -- Advertisement for Moulin Rouge, Reno Nevada. Appearing in Reno Evening Gazette. 26 April 1949. Page 8


Recipes as early as the 1950s called for chicken:

"And here, Madame, is the Monte Cristo, a sandwich de luxe to be prepared and served from a buffet. A big stainless steel frying pan and a grill, or a crepes suzette pan with the alcohol lamp is needed. Sandwich Monte Cristo: Make full-sized sandwiches of decrusted white bread put together with sliced chicken and Swiss cheese. Cut in halves. Dip in 2 eggs beaten with 1 c. light cream and sauté in butter." -- Allen, Ida Bailey. A Buffet Supper for New Year's Eve. Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Daily News. 1 January 1954. Page 16


Here a writer says the recipe is ideal for "leftover turkey, ham or chicken." (Note that he calls for a 2 layered-sandwich.)

"I first encountered the Monte Cristo sandwich in the Ship Room of the famous Huntington Hotel in Pasadena where I had traveled in 1946 with a fine bunch of World War II veterans who returned to the football field to carve some Rose Bowl history on New Year's Day. The Monte Cristo may have been named after the Count but as served at the Huntington was a product of the resourcefulness of Steve Romer, who at that time was assistant manager. The recipe is timely during the holiday season because it provides a delicious use of leftover turkey, ham or chicken. Here's the method for making each Monte Cristo sandwich:

Butter a slice of white bread and cover with slices of baked ham and turkey (or chicken), white meat preferred. Butter a second slice of bread on both sides and place atop meat. Cover with 2 thin slices of swiss cheese.

BUTTER A THIRD slice of bread on one side and place buttered side down on the cheese. Trim away the crusts and cut the sandwich diagonally in two. Secure the halves with toothpicks and dip in beaten egg. Saute them gently in melted butter on both sides until golden brown. Remove the picks and serve with cranberry sauce or red currant jelly. This is a treat for luncheon or a light supper." -- Fynn, Charles E. Mostly for Men column. Chicago, Illinois: Daily Herald. 8 January 1970. Section 2, Page 1.


In 1966 the Tahitian Terrace and Blue Bayou restaurants in Disneyland, California, put Monte Cristo sandwiches on their menus, which perhaps helped popularize the sandwich. The Disneyland version was, and is, deep-fried. [3]

Literature & Lore

Here's one of our newly discovered favorites which we first tasted in Disneyland. I have a new cookbook, "Disneyland Fun Food Cook Book" and it includes this favorite sandwich.


BLUE BAYOU MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH
Sandwich:
1 ounce slice white meat of turkey
1 ounce slice ham
1 ounce slice Swiss cheese
2 slices white bread

Make a sandwich with turkey meat, Swiss cheese and slice of ham. Be sure to place the Swiss cheese between the turkey and ham. Cut sandwich in quarters. Use toothpicks to hold sandwich together. Dip sandwich in egg batter and fry in 360 degree oil until golden brown. Remove toothpicks, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with blackberry jelly and a fruit compote topped with coconut.

Batter:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
1 1/3 c. water
1 egg

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Add water to beaten egg and add to flour mixture, mixing well. Yield: 2 cups batter.

-- Winters, Charlene. Kitchen Classics column. Provo, Utah: The Herald. 9 January 1977. Page 38, Col 1.

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