Tuesday, October 14, 2008

VeganMoFo: Fond memories of a Specialty Sandwich + Greek-ish Salad

When I was a girl, my uncle Tom and his family lived with us in our home for several years. He had two daughters who I would often refer to as "my little sisters" because we were so close. My uncle was a real foodie and loved to cook for us. At the time he worked as a handyman for a Ramada hotel and he would often frequent their restaurant where he would pal around with the cooks and get a free lunch. He picked up a lot of ideas from them and came home to share these meals with us kids. One of them was a 'Monte Cristo' sandwich: two slices of french toast with fried ham or turkey and melty cheese served with powdered sugar. He called it, or rather we called it "The Specialty Sandwich". He would make it for us all the time with fluffy french toast and a little mound of powdered sugar on our plates for dipping. I remember this meal the most because we continued to make it as we got older and my little brother and I still call it "The Specialty Sandwich" to this day. My uncle has since passed from cancer but his memory is still very much alive. I'll never forget his sense of fun and passion for food and cooking. Even towards the end when he was very ill, his daughter would come home from work to find him cooking up a storm in the kitchen. That makes me smile.

The other day on the PPK forums, someone made a vegan Monte Cristo and I immediately thought of my uncle. Even now as a vegan, I still want a taste of this sandwich and tonight I was able to recreate it. It was soooooo tasty! It had the same textures and flavor combination that I remember, even that "eggy" quality. I used this vegan french toast recipe but modified it by using only 1/2 cup soymilk, added 1 tsp cornstarch to the mixture and omitted the nutritional yeast. I slathered Vegenaise on the insides of the bread and used Yves Veggie Bologna and Colby Chedda Cheez (from The Ultimate Uncheese cookbook) for the insides. So good. I can't wait to make it again even if I felt a little guilty for eating all that sugar!

French Toast Recipe (I'm reposting the recipe with my modifications because the original website can be wonky.)

Makes 4 slices
1/2 cup vanilla soymilk
2 Tbsp unbleached white flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
pinch of cinnamon
4 bread slices

Whisk first 5 ingredients together while heating up a pan sprayed with oil. Dip one bread slice in mixture on one side then quickly turn over and dip the other side. Do not leave it in too long or it will get soggy. Fry on both sides until lightly browned. Set aside and continue with preparations for sandwich.

Quickie tutorial on making the sandwich:
After you make the french toast slices, set them aside and keep the heat going in your pan. Place two bologna slices in the hot pan. Place a slice or two of uncheese on one bologna slice. Flip the other bologna slice on top of the cheese so the cheese is sandwiched in the middle. The cheese will start to melt. While they are frying, spread Vegenaise on both slices of the french toast. Place bologna/cheese combo on on slice and sandwich with the other. Spray a little nonstick spray on your pan and fry your whole sandwich on both sides to firm it up more and get a golden color. Enjoy!

So Monte Cristos are obviously not the healthiest thing to be stuffing my face with (even though mine's made with soy based "meat" and no eggs) so I comprimised and made a healthy veggie-ful "Greek-ish" salad on the side. "Ish" because there is cubed tofu instead of feta, no red onions (I was out!) and no Greek olives (I had to sub very mild California olives). The dressing is based on one I used to like from a Mediterranean cookbook that I gave to my brother a while ago. I made it from memory.

Mediterranean Salad Dressing

1 tsp dijon mustard
3 TB red wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine mustard, vinegar, garlic and sugar. Slowly whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Kamaile said...

That sandwich would make a great breakfast! YUM!

pixiepine said...

That sandwich is all kinds of wrong...in the very best way! I'm going to have to give it a shot!!! :)

kmouse said...

Yes it would! I wouldn't mind having it every day but that would be bad. :)

You'll love it!

JohnP said...

Ye gods. I think the last time I had a Monte Cristo was when I was in high school.... well over 20 years ago! I seem to recall some place here put jam on the inside of the bread? Thanks as always for the inspiration!

Jeni Treehugger said...

That sandwich looks yummy - I can't imagine what it tastes like!
Lovely story by the way - it made me smile and remember people too.

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

My husband loves French Toast! I need to make this.

kittee said...

nice story about your uncle, i'm so glad you were able to make a satisfying vegan version.


Beerski said...

that is a lovely rememberable paragraph. my dad's sandwiches were deliclious and i love that salty, sweet, n cheesy combination. it'll never be forgotten.