But in researching this post I relied on three books, which I can confidently recommend:1. Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever 2. 'wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal — And a Meal into a Sandwich 3. Simple Italian Sandwiches: Recipes from America's Favorite Panini Bar
It's from Nancy Silverton's book that the prospect of a Monte Cristo sprung.
The recipe calls for a sandwich grill —a panini press, if you will. A waffle iron, if you won't. (Some contraptions manage to combine the functions.)
Silverton's Monte Cristo calls for ham and turkey, but I went with only turkey. I used Gruyere as the cheese and followed the book's suggestion to spread a thin layer of strawberry jam on the sandwich before it went into the waffle iron. Silverton uses sourdough bread, and the tang is important to offset the sweetness of the jam.
I suspect not all waffle irons will work equally well for this. If you have a Belgian-style model, I'd be interested in hearing in the comments whether this worked for you.
One key, I found, was to turn the sandwich midway through the waffling, to allow the waffle iron to press down evenly. If your waffle iron is like mine, the sandwich will settle right back into the grid when you turn it 180 degrees.
It's like it was meant to be.
There is something instantly appealing about panini. Like waffling, pressing a sandwich is transformative. The bread is toasted and warm. The pieces of cheese dribbling over the crust turn crispy from touching the hot grid.
You could stop right here and be a very happy sandwich eater.
But I didn't.
Silverton's recipe calls for deep-frying the Monte Cristo, and this is not the sort of blog where I leave well enough alone.
So while the sandwich was waffling, I made Silverton's beer batter.
If you're a novice deep-fryer, here is the most important thing: Make sure your oil does not fill your frying vessel more than halfway. When you add the sandwich, the oil will bubble up. You want to leave enough room so that the oil stays in the pot. This is very important.
The second most important thing — really, it's practically the most important thing, but grease fires are no fun so the above tip wins out — is to make sure your oil is at the right temperature. I fried the sandwich at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 175 Celsius.)
When they came out, I dusted them with powdered sugar and dabbed some strawberry jam on one corner.
I don't know how to tell you how good they were. They were great. The crackly outer crust from the batter surrounded the waffled slices of bread, between which sat the turkey and the warm cheese.
Later that evening over dinner, I discussed my waffling activities with my friends and frequent conspirators. It emerged from our discussion that you can also make the sandwich french toast-style, by which I mean dipping the bread in an egg-and-milk combination and then waffling.
One egg to about 1/2 cup [120 ml] of milk is about right. This produces fantastic results, as well, though it's no deep-frying — I'll leave it to you to decide whether that's a good or bad thing. It's certainly less work. The egg and milk soften the bread, and make the waffle pattern more evident on the sandwich. That's not a bad thing, either.
Tastewise, I preferred the deep-fried version.
Which makes sense when you think about it. Even just a little.
* * *
There's one more idea for waffle iron panini still to come. Meanwhile, speak up about your favorite sandwich fixings in the comments section.