Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cranberry Monte Cristo Sandwich

It's fall. For anyone who knows me, you will know that this is the goal of the entire year: get to fall. All the best things happen in fall: sweaters, hiking, jackets, fresh bread, Thanksgiving. It's the most wonderful time of the year. Don't get me wrong, Christmas is fun, but Fall is the season of magic.

As one of the many great things to happen this fall, is my invitation to join the HouseHold6 Cooking Club. For those of you less familiar with "the army," if your call-sign is 6, that means you are in charge. And since I am in charge of my Household, that's me. That could be you, too. Start demanding your spouse/children use it on the phone. Maybe it'll make your day.

As part of the cooking club, we have a monthly challenge! This month's challenge was:

Orange, brown and rust are the colors of Fall. Create a dish using these colors. You can only use one of the colors as a non food, ie a rust colored plate to hold the dish. You can incorporate other colors but these 3 colors have to be the dominant colors that you feature.

When I received this email, the first thing I thought was "cranberries are red, and red is a rusty color, and I want to eat cranberries." Follow that up by my love of the crisp browned edges of grilling sandwiches and the orangey color of a good Challah Bread, and we've got a color pallet. And even though I used Italian bread since the TN/KY area is low on Challah bread, it still worked out pretty famously. Here we go!

I love the Monte Cristo Sandwich. It is so many things that I love (french toast, grilled ham and cheese, jam) all put together into one delicious sandwich. And the thing that shocked me was how much I liked this sandwich when I put it together. I was all ready for "eeh, this is what I would change next time" and instead got "must stop eating long enough to take a picture of the sandwich" because it was that good.

Step the first: make a cranberry orange jam. If you're not up for this, just take some of the canned whole cranberry stuff and throw some orange zest in there. However, if you'd like to make a jam to put on this sandwich, toast (like I did this morning), baked chicken and anything else short of chocolate cake, it is easy, and requires almost no effort on your part. First just wash a bag of fresh cranberries (or take a bag out of the freezer), and put them in a pan with the zest and juice of one orange.

Add 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar (my orange was bi-tter, so I used a little more), and a cup of water, and 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 each cinnamin and nutmeg) and stick it on medium to boil away. After your initial stir, you really don't need to do much. Just let it simmer there for about 10 minutes on medium (until you stop hearing the cranberries pop). Turn the heat down and taste (this is where I added the rest of the sugar, since it was SUPER-tart, and I was looking for slightly-tart). Simmer on medium-low for another 5-10 minutes (with stirring) until sauce thickens a bit. Set aside to cool.

Step the second: prep the sandwiches. I like laying all of my bread on a tray and putting them together at the same time. On one side of the bread, I spread the cooled (or in my case "mostly cooled) cranberry jam of awesome.

On the other, make a mixture of mayo and mustard (I like to use spicy mustard, but Dijon would work well too)

Then layer cheese, turkey and ham... and another slice of cheese because it's tasty. Now put the two sides together, squish them together a little bit, and wrap tightly for 30 minutes-ish to let flavors combine, and the food stick together so you don't end up with half of your sandwich falling off.

As you can see... I have a picky eater in my family. He doesn't like "fancy food." So I also made this dish using regular, everyday, sandwich bread. If you are using regular, everyday, sandwich bread cut the crusts off before you wrap them. This is not because my picky eater is 3, but because it helps create a seal along the edges (which is helpful for not getting egg in the middle).

Step the third: french toast. Combine eggs, milk (I ended up using a small amount of heavy cream I had in my fridge) and some pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon and nutmeg)...

look how pretty that nutmeg is when you use it fresh...

Anyway, just whisk those together just like you're making french toast in home ec. Take your sandwiches out of their little wraps-of-flavor and dip them in the egg mixture on both sides, and place them on a pre-heated and buttered grill or pan. Keep the temperature low (a little less than medium?) and cover so that the heat permiates the cheese and melts everything - just like making a grilled cheese sandwich. After 2-3 minutes, flip to the other side and do it again.

Step the fourth: eating. Cut sandwich on the bias, and sprinkle with powdered sugar (if you remember before you eat half of it, unlike i did.)

Voila! It's fall colors, it tastes like fall and Christmas thanks to the cranberries, and you have a new guilty pleasure. Because, really, it looks like a million bucks but is surprisingly easy to put together. Enjoy!

Cranberry Monte Cristo Sandwich
3 eggs
1/4 c milk or cream
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Powdered Sugar (optional)

For each sandwich:
2 slices challah (ideal) or Italian bread (or sandwich for picky eaters)
2 slices gouda (or swiss for picky eaters)
2 thin slices turkey
2 thin slices ham
Mayo/spicy mustard to taste
Cranberry orange jam to taste (recipe below)

Lay out bread, smearing mustard/mayo on one side, and cranberry orange jam on the other. Layer cheese, meat and cheese (so the cheese can "glue" the sandwich together on both sides). Put top on sandwiches, and smoosh them down lightly. (Cut off crusts if using sandwich bread to create a seal.) Wrap tightly and store for at least 30 minutes in refrigerator.

Combine eggs, milk and pumpkin pie spice in 8x8 baking dish or pie pan and wisk together. Dip both sides of rested sandwich in egg mixture and place on a medium-hot (buttered) grill. Tent or cover to ensure cheese melts, and cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve topped with powdered sugar (optional).

Cranberry Orange Jam

1 bag of freshly washed cranberries (frozen work well, too)
Zest and Juice of one orange
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and let sit, on medium, for about 10 minutes (or until the cranberries finish "popping"). Turn the heat down and stir regularly for another 5-10 minutes as the sauce thickens. Let cool.


  1. Oh this looks amazing! Great job!

  2. Wow. Just... wow. I feel like I learned about this sandwich in junior high French class, but it was called a croque monsieur or a croque madame. Maybe I'm thinking about something else. But I am totally impressed that you made the cranberry jam from scratch. Add this to my list of recipes to try!

  3. Meili, The Croque Monsieur will be the same (minus the jelly, which is sad) but with a bechamel sauce on top. The croque madame will also add an egg on top.

  4. The Croque Sarah - magnifique!

    I would use one side cranberry jam, one side spreadable cheese, I think. (I do love the cheese part.) This looks amazing!