A Monte Cristo sandwich is ham and Gruyère on French Toast. Photo courtesy Kikkoman.
Blue cheese and sliced apples
Feta and kalamata olives with dill or oregano
Smoked salmon, caviar and crème fraîche
1. PREPARE the tomatoes: Sauté the tomatoes in the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the oregano and vinegar and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and set aside, keeping warm until ready to serve.
2. MAKE the French Toast: Whisk the milk, egg, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a shallow pan. Dip the bread into the milk mixture and pan fry it in a hot non-stick pan for 3 minutes per side.
3. TRANSFER the bread onto serving plates and top with the tomato mixture. Shave the cheese over the tomatoes. Serve immediately.
THE HISTORY OF FRENCH TOAST
The dish known in America as French toast has roots at least as far back as ancient Rome, where it was a sweet dish. In fact, pain perdu (lost bread), the current French name for the dish, was once called pain à la romaine, or Roman bread.
While the story evolved that French Toast was a food of the poor, trying to scrape together a meal from stale bread, recipes from ancient and medieval times denote that it was fare for wealthy people.
Recipes used white bread, a luxury, with the crusts cut off. Poor people ate brown bread, much cheaper because the wheat endosperm did not have to be milled and painstakingly hand-sifted through screens to create white flour.
Costly ingredients such as spices (cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg), sugar and almond milk are found in numerous recipes.
The cooked bread was topped with costly honey or sugar.
And cookbooks themselves were the province of the privileged: Only wealthy people and clergy learned to read.
THE MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH
More recently, French toast has evolved into a savory sandwich, the Monte Cristo. It is an evolution of the croque-monsieur, a crustless sandwich of ham and Gruyère cheese, buttered and lightly browned on both sides in a skillet or under a broiler.
The croque-monsieur was invented in Paris in 1910. A variation with a baked egg on top is called a croque-madame. Neither sandwich was battered, like French toast.
The Monte Cristo sandwich, a triple-decker sandwich, battered and pan-fried, was invented at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. According to the L.A. Times, the first recipe in print is in the Brown Derby Cookbook, published in 1949.
Here’s the recipe so you can try it for lunch—although probably not on the same day you have French Toast for breakfast.