When my husband is traveling on business (which seems to be way too much lately), I usually keep the cooking to a minimum. I hate having a big mess to clean up when I am the only one to clean it. And combined with homework, baths, and bedtime routines, sometimes it just seems like more than I can handle — especially when he is on a long trip. Single parents have my ultimate admiration. If parenting with help is exhausting, parenting solo sucks your every will to live.
On those nights, we usually do some simple pasta or soup. A big pot of soup made at the beginning of the week can feed you for many days. I love making chicken noodle soup — by the end of the week, the noodles have soaked up so much of the delicious broth that they are a meal on their own. But our other favorite thing in Daddy’s absence is breakfast for dinner — eggs, omelets, pancakes — you name it. The kids are guaranteed to love it and the cooking/cleaning load is much easier.
Lately, the kids have fallen in love with Monte Cristo sandwiches — a great combination of a grilled cheese and french toast. It’s just as easy as the two component dishes and can be mixed and matched with lots of different fillings and dips. Today we made Apple and Fontina Monte Cristos, but you could easily add ham or turkey, use any kind of cheese, and dip in anything from maple syrup to grainy mustard to whipped cream. Quite honestly, I think you could make a version of this for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert.
You might even be able to get through a whole week of travel with nothing but Monte Cristos. Next time he goes to California, I guess.
Apple and Fontina Monte Cristo
Makes 2-3 sandwiches
Note: Simple dishes like this are best with simple, fresh ingredients. In my case, I am extremely lucky to have the wonderful Gemelli Bakery as my challah source. Use the best bread and cheese you can find.
Half loaf of Challah or Brioche Bread, sliced about 3/4 inches thick
6 ounces Fontina Cheese, thinly sliced
1 apple, thinly sliced
1/4 cup of milk
1/8 t cinnamon
Dash of salt and pepper
1. Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt/pepper in a wide pasta bowl or deep plate.
2. Place one slice of bread on cutting board. Make one layer of Fontina slices. Follow with one layer of apple slices. Top with another piece of bread. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. If you like, you can spread some grainy mustard right on the bread before cooking (my favorite, not the kids).
3. Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan or griddle on medium low heat. Hold the sandwich together carefully and dip it into the egg batter on both sides. Make sure it is coated nicely, but not too saturated. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.
4. Place sandwiches in saute pan or griddle and cook until golden brown. Flip, press sandwich down a bit, and cook until golden brown on second side. If your bread is extra thick, you may need to keep flipping for awhile in order to get the cheese to melt (the frequent flipping prevents the bread from becoming too brown).
5. Remove from pan, cut in half, and serve with maple syrup or grainy mustard on the side.
6. Pour yourself a tall glass of wine to get through the rest of the evening.