Chef Essig's Featured Menu Item of the Week - Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Not all sandwiches are simple combinations of miscellaneous ingredients between bread.
The creation of the sandwich is attributed to England’s John Montegu, the "Earl of Sandwich" in the late 1600’s. During a late night card game, the Earl supposedly asked a servant to bring him some meat between slices of bread so he could eat during the game without distractions such as plates and silverware.
This was a brilliant idea, but it may not have been solely his own.
Montegu may have been inspired from his travels to the Eastern Mediterranean. During his travels to this area, he witnessed Greeks and Turks eating meats on grilled pitas and flat breads, a traditional eating habit in these areas for thousands of years. Montegu gained his title of "Earl of Sandwich" after he commandeered a fleet off the town of Sandwich.
Despite his original intention to be the "Earl of Portsmouth", he accepted this title to pay homage to the town of Sandwich. If not for his change of heart, you might be ordering a Portsmouth at your favorite deli rather than the dearly loved sandwich that we all know today!
Sandwiches come in all shapes and sizes.
Some sandwiches are simply a piece of meat between slices of bread; others stand out as masterpieces of flavor and texture combinations. Some sandwiches are considered timeless favorites, such as the BLT, Grilled Cheese, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Reuben, and one of my personal favorites, the Monte Cristo.
It is not certain when or where the first Monte Cristo sandwich was prepared, but is seems to have ties to the French Croque Monsieur. The Croque Monsieur is a hot sandwich made of two pieces of bread without crusts, buttered and filled with thin slices of Gruyere cheese and ham. The sandwich is then lightly browned on both sides and topped with a white Gruyere cheese sauce called Mornay sauce. The sauce-drenched sandwich is then cooked au gratin (breaded and browned in the oven). This creation can be traced to a Parisian cafe on the Boulevard des Capucines in 1910.
Hot, Melty, and Delicious!
Whether the Monte Cristo evolved from the Croque Monsieur is debatable, but the fact that both creations are mouth-watering delicious is not.
The Monte Cristo sandwich begins with two slices of white bread spread lightly with Dijon mustard. The bread is then topped with thinly sliced ham and Gruyere cheese. This simple ham and cheese sandwich is dipped in an egg batter and grilled to golden brown on a seasoned skillet. To finish it off, the sandwich is sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with a side of syrup or fruit preserves. These final additions may sound strange, but the combination of sweet and salty flavors is actually quite popular. These complimentary flavors are commonly enjoyed in items such as chocolate covered pretzels or French fries and ketchup.
The Monte Cristo started to gain popularity in the United States in the 1960s. Disneyland’s Blue Bayou restaurant in Anaheim, California began serving this sandwich in 1966. The hundreds and thousands of visitors to the park quickly spread this tasty creation across the country and throughout the world. The Monte Cristo is still on the menu today at Disneyland and is served to customers every day.
If you have never tried this classic sandwich, make sure to watch the brunch menus at Holmes and Tobey-Kendel during the academic school year!
I hope you enjoy the Monte Cristo Sandwich as much as I do!
Here in Dining Services, "We Feed The Bears!"
Happy Dining from Executive Chef Essig!
Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA
(Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator)
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