My new favourite food TV show is Man v. Food. It would appear it's on satellite TV but I'd never heard of it until a friend in the US recommended it. A quick download and I was hooked, knocking out a couple of episodes a night catching up. In the show the host Adam makes his way across the US, city by city, with the main event being him attempting one of the city's famous food challenges. I've only heard of a couple of eating challenges over here before - and not for a while - but it seems like they're a big thing in the states. Whilst I find it quite amusing watching him trying out a 5lb burger or 72 oz steak I'm equally in love with the show for the glimpse it gives me of cheap US eating. There's no expensive restaurants here, focusing - as Adam puts it - on chow down joints, the kind of place I would definitely be eating if I go over there. One thing that has struck me is the sheer variety of sandwiches there so I thought I'd investigate a few. Some sound delicious and some a little weird. It wouldn't be right for this blog if I didn't start with a weird one.
The Monte Cristo is basically a ham, turkey and cheese sandwich, not very weird at all so far, especially by US standards where they love a good combination of cold cuts. It gets a bit stranger when it's dipped in egg and fried (although not too out the ordinary - there's mozzarella en carozza after all) but it's - for me anyway - the strawberry jam to dip it in that takes it over the edge (not to mention a sometime dusting in icing sugar, but that was a step too far even for me). I had to try it.
Having done so I must say it works. Initial thoughts are it shouldn't but when I try and rationalise it it starts to make a bit more sense. Turkey and cranberry are frequent bedfellows, and cheese and ham certainly don't mind a sweet chutney, the outside french toast is definitely served sweet on occasion. When I started out I thought I'd take a cursory dip in the jam just to see how it was served over there and then eat my sandwich plain, I ended up taking jam with every mouthful though and wiping the plate clean of the sweet stuff. What started out as something weird ended up something tasty, I suppose I shouldn't have doubted the American palate so much, something wouldn't last from the 1930s to now if it wasn't tasty - would it?
Monte Cristo Sandwich, makes 4
8 slices of white bread, I used an organic batch loaf
150gr roast turkey, thinly sliced
150gr smoked ham, thinly sliced
4 slices of gruyere, or other Swiss cheese
If you want, butter the bread. Seemed a bit superfluous to me though so I didn't bother.
Layer turkey then ham then cheese on one slice of bread and top with another.
Dip in egg and fry, slowly, in some butter and oil. Set the pan so it takes a few minutes a side as you need the heat to penetrate to the middle. Whilst it's cooking give it a squash with a spatula and hopefully the sides will stick and seal.
Serve with jam, and if you're feeling really sweet toothed a dusting of icing sugar.