To fight off some recent stress, I’ve been trying especially hard to be more mindful. And what I’ve come to learn is that all this “living in the now” stuff is a near herculean feat.
I’ll be consciously focusing on a moment, but then my swiss cheese mind just lets stuff in. Should I make brownies tonight? I should make brownies tonight. Although my brother is coming up this weekend, so maybe I’ll wait until he’s here, he loves brownies. But I do have that thing on Monday that I promised that person I would do and they might want brownies too, but that’s just too many brownies. Wait, did I just think the phrase, “too many brownies?”. I need to get my head checked. Oh! And I’ve got to remember to work on a vegan brownie for when my grandmother comes to visit for the holidays…
And just like that, I’m suddenly planning my brownie schedule for the next few weeks, and whatever moment I was originally focused on has evaporated into thin air.
It’s too easy to get caught up in plans and worries about our lives. It’s not just brownie schedules (though those are pretty serious) – but we have obligations that take up 90% our mental energy, like work, school, bills to pay, you name it. And it’s all overshadowed by a looming sense of the uncertain future we’re supposed to be working towards.
But whatever it is that we worry about, it’s distracting us from the real stuff. The little moments. The fresh cup of coffee that has just the right amount of cream and sugar, or the deep calm you see etched into the face of your sleeping spouse. The crunch of snow underfoot, or the feeling of warm sun on your skin. That’s life. I may not be the best at putting this into practice, but I know that wondering if you’ll ever get that dream apartment/car/body/boyfriend/life to finally make you “complete”, so you can finally be “happy”, is not a good use of anyone’s energy.
So today’s breakfast is one that will demand your attention. Your taste buds will yank your head down from the clouds and offer you, if only for a moment, a taste of what’s important.
Not surprisingly, I love this sandwich because of the intense contrast of sweet and savory. Loaded with a sweet yet tart cranberry jam spread on soft challah french toast, set against the salty ham, mustard, and gooey gruyere, this baby is perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. All you have to do is drown it in maple syrup, and get ready for the foodgasm.
A few notes: this is a classic monte cristo in that it is made with gruyere and ham then fried in a french toast batter. Cranberry jam suits the season here in New England, but raspberry would probably be equally delicious. The recipe makes one (very filling) sandwich, because this breakfast is all for you. Enjoy it!
Classic Monte Cristo with Cranberry Jam
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of cracked black pepper
2 slices bread (challah or brioche are great)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cranberry jam
1/4 cup (2 oz) gruyere cheese, freshly grated
4 slices thinly sliced ham
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for cooking
Whisk the eggs, milk, heavy cream, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Set aside.
Spread each slice of bread with 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard, followed by 1 tablespoon of cranberry jam. Layer the ham on one piece and pile the grated cheese on the other, then firmly press the ham-slice on top of the cheese to form a sandwich.
Place the sandwich in the egg/milk mixture, allowing it to sit for about a minute if your bread slices are thick. Then flip it over and soak the other side.
Heat the butter in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat until it starts to sizzle. Fry the sandwich for about five minutes on one side (if it’s browning too quickly, lower the heat), then flip and fry the other side for another 5 minutes – you want to make sure your cheese has melted. Serve with extra cranberry jam and a healthy shower of maple syrup.