classic monte cristo sandwich with red currant relish

August 16, 2013

monte cristo with red currant relish

“The death of hope is a tricky thing.”

~Bernard Ng

Bernard Ng is an American writer from Pasadena, California. When I was in Vermont, I heard him reading from his beautiful memoir when he suddenly read a line that I’d written. Only I hadn’t written it – he had. We’d written the same line. Pretty much word for word.


It was a line about belonging or rather the lack of belonging – the struggle for belonging.

In the moment that he read that line, I felt as though I had an insight into his soul and vice versa. I concentrated on every sentence he read. His words reverberated inside me. I felt them.

After his reading, I went to tell him about the line we shared. But in front of him, I felt unexpectedly shy. I wasn’t even sure he’d believe in the soul. And why would he think that a line he’d written connected me in any way to him. It seemed kind of goofy to walk up to someone I didn’t know and let him know I’d written the exact same thing and that somehow must have meant we were soul mates. So I told him something inane like, “I really loved your reading – I’ve felt those same things – that struggle for a sense of belonging.” He was incredibly gracious.

After Vermont, Bernard sent me an email out of the blue. We started to exchange our writing. He has a tendency to write quirky, sometimes cryptic stories with sudden, beautiful lines that sear through everything and hold the entire story together. The last story he sent me was about losing hope and then finding it again in the most unexpected places. At least that was my interpretation. “This damn life is do-able,” he wrote.

As tricky as the loss of hope is, I love the idea that we find it again – in the oddest of places. I’ve been peering into the night sky – the river – the crevices between the rocks at the edge of Lake Ontario.

In Eastern Ontario, the first hint of autumn is in the air. I usually dread the end of summer because it means that winter will eventually follow. But this year, I’m looking forward to autumn. I’m feeling hopeful – like this damn life might be do-able after all. I’m looking forward to the return to routines. I’m back in my kitchen after the heat of summer. I’m looking forward to the fall harvest, to apples and pumpkins and squash. I’m starting to think of the change of seasons as a fresh start with all the possibility that comes with that.

A while back, I picked some red currants. It was too hot to do anything with them, so I froze them. Tonight I pulled them out of the freezer and made a relish with them. I’ve had Monte Cristo sandwiches on the brain for the past week and wanted to make something to serve with them. It was a stunningly fantastic flavour combination. If you don’t have red currants – either buy some red currant jelly or perhaps try cranberry relish or lingonberry jam (Ikea sells it).

Red Currant Relish

1 cup red currants, washed and de-stemmed
½ cup sugar
1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Bring the ingredients to the boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until thickened, about 15 minutes. If the mixture gets too thick – remove from the heat and add an extra tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.

Classic Monte Cristo Sandwich

(I don’t think you’ll need a recipe but in case you do here it is and this will serve 2)

4 slices sourdough bread
Old Cheddar or Emmental or Gruyère or Swiss or whatever cheese you prefer
Half a dozen slices of black forest ham
2 eggs
1 tbsp water

Butter the bread and make a sandwich with sliced cheddar cheese and ham.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large fry pan.

Beat the eggs into a bowl and whisk with a tablespoon or so of water. Dip the sandwiches into the egg mixture and place the sandwiches into the hot fry pan. Fry over medium heat until the outsides of the sandwich are nicely browned and the cheese is melted.

Serve hot with red currant relish.

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  • Reply Jessica August 17, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I’ve never had a Monte Cristo…that’s actually so sad.

    Beautiful post Lindy!

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen August 17, 2013 at 6:26 am

      Jess – come over and see me. I’ll make you lunch or dinner before you return to Montreal. xox

  • Reply Darya August 17, 2013 at 7:16 am

    I am glad you gave the recipe for the sandwich as well, as I had no idea what it was, have never tasted anything like it, and love the sound of it! I love the idea of the topping it with a tangy relish as well… yum!

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen August 17, 2013 at 9:44 am

      Thank you Darya – how nice of you. It’s really hard to beat a very good sandwich! I think I’ll implement once a week sandwich night. And this red currant relish – if you can get your hands on some red currants – it’s SO very delicious. 😉

  • Reply apuginthekitchen August 17, 2013 at 8:47 am

    How wonderful that you got to meet Mr. Ng and interact with him and the fact that you wrote almost exactly the same line is amazing. You have an immediate connection and as you said an insight into his soul. Monte Cristo has always been one of my favorite sandwiches, love the relish with the sandwich.

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen August 17, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Thanks Suzanne – you are lovely! I hadn’t had a Monte Cristo for years but once the idea got wedged into my head – I couldn’t let it go. Don’t you love that – when cooking ideas resurface and they are like a song stuck in your head?! And the relish is simply amazing – easy and full of flavour.. Red currants are tedious to pick – but so fabulous.

  • Reply An Embarrassment of Freedom August 18, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Many a long afternoon I have picked red currants for my mom. She always made jelly but I wasn’t a huge fan of it. However, it sounds delicious with this sandwich! I will make it for my son’s next visit home! (he’s a Queen’s grad!)

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen August 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      Oh they are SO tedious to pick! I used to pick them for my mum too – and then she made jelly – and I never liked it either. But last year a friend gave me a jar her husband had made and it was out of this world delicious. So I think it’s one of those things that I didn’t like as a child but adore now.
      Is your son a recent graduate of Q?

      • Reply An Embarrassment of Freedom August 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm

        He’s getting on…31 this fall! He graduated in 2005. He loved going to Queen’s, a theatre student, and has worked at some wonderful places. Arts doesn’t really pay big ( ha aha!) but he has really had some great experiences.

        • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen August 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm

          I bet you must have made a few road trips to Kingston when your son was here! And yes – you are right about how making a living in the arts is a challenge. Sad really.

          • An Embarrassment of Freedom August 19, 2013 at 10:48 pm

            Lots of road trips and fun times! Even met a gentlemanly ghost when staying at a Band B. Seriously….. Read my blog archive…”Where There’s Smoke”….

  • Reply Jennifer Smeltzer August 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Sounds delicious as always, Lindy!!

  • Reply Karen August 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    I don’t have access to red currants but I can certainly use one of your suggested substitutes for this nice sandwich.

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen August 19, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      Red currants are really hard to come by but if you do happen upon them they are well worth buying. They’re old-fashioned but what do you want to bet – next thing we know they’ll be the new superfood!

  • Reply tinywhitecottage August 19, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    What an interesting story about Bernard Ng! And I haven’t had a Monte Cristo for ages. I remember, years ago, working in a restaurant and they served Monte Cristos and I loved them. This currant relish is fantastic. I like how your froze them and ended up making a relish. Wonderful post Lindy. 🙂

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen August 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Loved this comment – thank you so much. I did reply earlier – and it was something incredibly earnest – but then mysteriously – it disappeared. Now I’m trying to remember exactly what I said and nothing seems quite so meaningful! But I do love that you worked in a place that served these and that you loved them!

      • Reply tinywhitecottage August 20, 2013 at 10:38 pm

        That has happened to me so many times Lindy. Comments just disappear before I’m finished or have a chance to press “reply”…I think it’s a WP glitz!

        • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen August 21, 2013 at 9:59 am

          One of those little bugs in the system I guess. I haven’t found a feedback forum for WordPress but they should have one. The other thing that has been happening to me lately is that I find myself inadvertently not following bloggers that I follow and have to re-add them. It’s as though WordPress is censoring my blogging friendships!

          • tinywhitecottage August 21, 2013 at 10:06 am

            Oh no! And if you have many your are following how would you ever be able to know who has disappeared? I better keep an eye on it. Thanks for letting me know.

  • Reply Green Door Hospitality August 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    I love that — “damn life is do-able”. Hope is truly what keeps us all going, through ups and downs. Great post!

    Also — I did in fact need the recipe for the sandwich. 😉 Believe it or not, I have never had a Monte Cristo before!


  • Reply midihideaways August 26, 2013 at 4:21 am

    What a fantastic story – and a great recipe! I’d never heard of a Monte Christo sandwich and now I know, sounds like a great variation on French Toast!!

  • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen August 26, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Thank you – that’s so nice of you. And lovely to see you here. I’m so enjoying your fabulous blog on the good life in France.

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