Breakfast for Dinner: Monte Cristo style!

I had my first Monte Cristo sandwich my freshman year of college. We were on a training trip to Mission Veijo, California and in between practices one day a few teammates and I ventured to a restaurant near the hotel called Sugar Shack. After we discovered that place I think at least 5 members of the team were there for lunch every day.

University of Scranton Swim Team '04-'05 in California

*Sorry guys, I just had to post this. Just a little nostalgia!

I was never a big breakfast person, but it’s slowly been growing on me. The Monte Cristo is a good middle ground dish; it’s a little breakfast with the French toast style bread, and also lunch/dinner-like with the ham and cheese.

I found this particular recipe on Serious Eats‘s “Dinner Tonight” section and took out the strawberry preserves and mustard. I’d never heard of either on that particular sandwich, and I’m not big on jelly and my fiancé won’t eat mustard (or mayo). I also couldn’t find gruyere cheese at ShopRite – their cheese display is confusing. I did, however, find chipotle Gouda so I snagged that. I know Gouda isn’t the best for melting, but since it’s my all time favorite cheese, I didn’t care.

After a solid 3.1 miles regretfully on the treadmill (thanks a lot mother nature!) I set to work on the sandwiches. The recipe didn’t specify what type of bread to use, so at the store on Monday I grabbed a big crusty loaf of Italian bread. I cut the slices on the thicker side, to make it a little gourmet looking. I cut a few slices of the chipotle gouda, and added about a slice and a half of smoked ham. In terms of the French toast part, I followed the instructions for the mixture and ran with it. Since I know gouda isn’t the best melty cheese (thank you Bobby Flay’s Throw Down episode on grilled cheese), after I cooked them on each side to a golden crisp, I threw them in the oven for 5 minutes to assist in the melting.

We paired the sandwiches with some tater tots and a salad, and we were stuffed. We had plans to tackle another cupcake from Monday, but we were just too full.

Even though I’m not a huge breakfast fan (gasp!) I would absolutely make this again. It’s definitely the type of recipe you can play with in terms of different ham and cheese types, and I like that flexibility! Now if only I could transfer that flexibility to my legs. Boy they’re tight!

Monte Cristo
– Serves 2 –

4 slices bread
6 slices ham
2 slices gruyere cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoon milk
Pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons strawberry jam

1. Smear some mustard on two slices of bread. Top each with three slices of ham, one slice of cheese, and a slice of bread.
2. Whisk together the egg, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla in a shallow pan.
3. Dip each sandwich into the egg mixture, making sure to evenly coat both sides.
4. Add the butter to a large skillet set over medium heat. When melted, add the sandwiches and cook on both sides until browned.
5. Sprinkle with the sugar, and serve with the strawberry jam.

Happy breakfast, lunch, and dinner nomzing!

Ooey Gooey Goodness – The Pop Shop!

This past weekend, I had the luxury of stuffing myself to the gills.

It all started Friday evening with a trip into Philly with my boyfriend to see a newly formed Blake Schwarzenbach (Jawbreaker) band, forgetters. On the way down, we stopped at a Sonic. Now, after being taunted and teased by their commercials for YEARS without one nearby, they are slowly but surely starting to sprout up in surrounding areas. This particular Sonic is located in Bensalem, PA. Both my boyfriend and I went for the bacon cheeseburger on Texas toast, of course with a side of tots, and I washed it all down with a cherry slush. Sonic is delish, don’t get me wrong; this has now been my third trip. This was, however, the most painful trip. I had heartburn like you wouldn’t believe later that night. I definitely attribute it to the burger. But boy was it good!!

Now on to what this post is really about – The Pop Shop!

I first learned of this cheesy heaven from watching “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” on The Food Network. I’m used to watching those types of shows and not have any of the locations be nearby. This time, however, when I heard it was in Collingswood, a mere hour and a half from me, I knew visiting needed to happen. This past weekend was actually my second trip. My first trip was quite the experience on it’s own, but that’s a separate story in itself :o)

One of the greatest parts of this classic American diner-like restaurant is it’s set-up. It has the feel of an old 50’s diner, but re-vamped and up to date. You’re menu will come to you on a newspaper, which makes you really feel at home. They serve everything from super-stuffed omelettes and French toast sandwiches to regular sandwiches, salads, soups, and of course the whole reason for my trip – grilled cheese.

Now, this isn’t your every day grilled cheese. Sure, you can get it on multiple types of bread, and even different type of cheese. But that’s just the beginning. They have everything from chicken or turkey or roast beef to sliced apples or jalapeños. Serve it up with one of their many different French fry choices and wash it down with a milkshake… heaven.

As I do before all food trips, I began perusing the menu online mid-week. By Saturday morning, I had narrowed it down to two options; the “Frazer” or the “Calvert.” The “Frazer” was a gigantour of a sandwich stuffed with jack cheese, chicken breast, chipotle mayo, and a spicy jalapeño and onion mix on sourdough. andyssandwichThe second, named “Calvert” was equally intimidating and included jack cheese, bacon, roasted turkey, avocado, and house dressing on a foccacia. Just to note, they named all of their grilled cheese sandwiches after streets in Collingswood, NJ. After much debate, I decided to go with the Frazer, as the mention of jalapeños sucked me in (as they always do).

Next on my to-do list was my French fry selection. I opted for the “Collingswood fries”cheesefrieswhich were seasoned with Old Bay and topped with melted cheddar cheese and bacon. There really aren’t even words for them. Just take a gander at this picture, and I think you’ll understand.

I washed my delicious lunch down with a fountain soda; diet coke mixed with cherry and vanilla syrup. My boyfriend, on the other hand, got that milkshake – oreo cheesecake!milkshake

Needless to say, I was full for the rest of the day. Grilled cheese is a truly phenomenal meal – you can keep it simple, or turn it into something gourmet and even truly eccentric. I am definitely looking forward to spicing up my own grilled cheese concoctions in the kitchen in the near future. More importantly, however, I’m anxiously anticipating my next trip to The Pop Shop!