A Monte Cristo sandwich is traditionally made with thinly sliced ham and Swiss cheese. The ingredients are placed between two slices of bread and then the whole sandwich is dipped in batter and either pan fried in butter or deep fried in oil. After cooking, the outside of the sandwich should be crispy and golden brown, and the cheese in the middle should be melted. Monte Cristo variations can be made with sliced turkey or chicken, and bacon may be added. Some people prefer a sweet Monte Cristo sandwich, on which powdered sugar may be sprinkled. To create the sweet version, jam can also be spread in the sandwich before cooking or used as a dip during eating.
Some Monte Cristo sandwich recipes call for the sandwich to be deep fried while others call for it to be fried in a skillet. Both methods usually result in a crispy, properly cooked sandwich. During either method, it may be helpful to keep the sandwich together by securing it with toothpicks. After frying, the sandwich can be placed on a paper towel to absorb excess fat.
Many types of bread may be used when making this recipe. The most popular Monte Cristo sandwich bread is the white sandwich variety, but challah, sourdough, or any other type of artisan bread can be used. If using something other than sandwich bread, the slices should not be too thick as this can keep the inner ingredients from heating and the cheese from melting.
The batter for a Monte Cristo sandwich typically consists of eggs and cream. This mixture can be easily seasoned to change the taste of the dish. For a sweeter version, vanilla, cinnamon, or sugar can be added to the batter. A savory sandwich batter can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbs. The sandwich should be dipped in the batter quickly, and excess batter should be gently shaken off. Leaving the sandwich in the batter for too long can result in soggy bread that may fall apart during cooking.
It is easy to modify the dish to suit a person's taste. Any type of deli meat can be used, and the cheese can be changed as well. People who prefer a sweet Monte Cristo sandwich can add a layer of their favorite jam between the meat and the bread, or the sandwich can be dipped in jam before a person takes a bite. Powdered sugar can also be sprinkled on the sandwich after it is done cooking to add a sugary note.