Monte Cristo Sandwiches and Blind Fish
One of the most satisfying chores on my little patch of heaven is gathering the daily supply of eggs from my hens. There are so many ways to incorporate eggs into our daily meal planning. Two of our favorites can segue from breakfast to lunch to supper: Monte Cristo Sandwiches and the less well-known German blind fish. It’s sort of like French toast but simplified. I’m happy to share both of those recipes with you. But first, a little history.
Monte Cristo sandwiches have their origins in Italy. Chefs layer ham, Gruyère cheese, mustard, and mayonnaise between two sturdy, often artisan, bread pieces. The whole sandwich is dipped into beaten eggs and then griddled in butter, and that’s a starting point. Garden veggies and herbs can be added, as well.
Now the history of blind fish is a bit murky. I had my first taste of blind fish early in my marriage when my German husband, Frank, made me breakfast. I had no idea what blind fish was, and the moniker certainly didn’t help. “It’s like French toast, but it’s German, and we grew up with it on the farm,” he told me. Okay, so I was intrigued, and one bite had me hooked, so to speak.
One legend regarding the name is a fun one to share. Supposedly, back in the old days, loaves of bread were longer in shape, and when the bread was sliced, dipped, and fried, it took on the look of a fish. Regardless of how the name came about, blind fish is so simple and yummy. Plus, it uses plain bread, and day-old is even better. Waste not, want not!
MONTE CRISTO SANDWICHES
This recipe makes four sandwiches. Gruyère cheese is standard, but sometimes the cost is prohibitive. I like to use baby Swiss or thin-sliced Swiss, Fontina, or Havarti cheese. But just about any good melting cheese works.
Adjust ingredients to how many sandwiches you want to make.
I like to have ingredients at room temperature so that the ham gets hot and cheese melts nicely when the bread is golden brown.
For a classic Monte Cristo, sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on top, a light coating, right before serving.
- 4 large eggs
- 8 slices hearty bread (I used sourdough and Italian)
- Whole grain or favorite mustard
- 8 slices ham (I used leftover spiral cut ham slices)
- Swiss, Havarti, or your favorite cheese, sliced thin (enough to cover bread nicely, several slices on each)
- Parmesan or Romano, shredded — just a small amount (optional)
- Freshly ground pepper
- Confectioners’ sugar (optional)
- Whisk eggs together in a shallow bowl until well mixed and foamy. Set aside.
- Spread one slice of bread with about a tablespoon mustard and one with a tablespoon of mayonnaise for each sandwich.
- Assemble each sandwich with Swiss cheese, then two slices of ham and a sprinkling of Parmesan and pepper.
- Smoosh sandwiches down a bit — that keeps everything inside as they cook.
- Heat skillet over medium heat and add butter, enough to make a thin film on the bottom (a couple of tablespoons or so depending upon the size of skillet). The butter should be foamy but not brown.
- Dip sandwiches in egg on both sides.
- Lift out with a spatula, let excess egg mixture drip off, and place in skillet.
- Cook three to four minutes per side until both sides brown nicely, and cheese melts.
- Lay a plate on top of the sandwiches as they cook. This holds them down, making for a nice compact sandwich.
- Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar if using.
- Cut and serve.
Swap it out
Any good bread works here, so go with what you have.
Tuck these into the sandwich between the ham and cheese: Thinly sliced tomatoes, peppers, and new onions from the garden, or a sprinkle of fresh minced herbs.
Make ahead and reheat.
- Make ahead: Assemble to the point of dipping in egg. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a day. Bring to room temperature before dipping in egg and proceeding to cook.
- Reheat in the microwave for about one minute or so. Or place in a 325-degree-F oven, tented with foil, so bread stays crisp until hot.
BLIND FISH (German “French” toast)
We usually make blind fish for breakfast, especially when family or friends spend the night. Husband Frank uses a special, vintage, electric grill known as the “blind fish griddle.” It is large enough to cook eight pieces. A non-stick or other skillet works well, too.
This recipe makes five or six pieces, depending upon the bread. Plain white bread is the bread of choice here, not fancy artisan bread!
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup milk — we use whole milk
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Plain white bread with crusts left on
- Favorite syrup
- Powdered sugar
- Whisk eggs together until well blended, then whisk in milk.
- A few shakes of salt, a grinding of pepper (not too much), and you’re ready to dip.
- Heat skillet over medium heat and add butter, enough to make a thin film on the bottom (a couple of tablespoons or so depending upon the size of skillet).
- The butter should be foamy but not brown.
- Dip bread in egg mixture on both sides.
- Lift out with a spatula, letting excess mixture drip off, and place in skillet.
- Cook a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown.
- Place one piece of blind fish on a small plate. Drizzle with syrup and top with powdered sugar.
Swap it out
- Instead of syrup and powdered sugar, smear your favorite jelly or jam on the blind fish.
Have breakfast for supper
- Pass a platter of sausages and bacon.
- Make a fresh fruit salad by tossing about one cup each of fresh halved grapes, chopped pineapple, and strawberries together in a bowl. Stir in minced mint to taste.
- You can make a lovely dressing by whisking together two tablespoons each of honey and lime or orange juice to taste. Pour over fruit and toss gently.
Originally published in the June/July issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.