Single Mom’s Crispy Ham And Cheese Melts On A Budget

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Ingredients:

8 slices of Italian bread

8 oz. provolone cheese, shredded (or 8 slices) 

16 thin slices of deli ham 

¼ cup butter 

3 large eggs 

2 tbsp. milk 

1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs 

2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated 

8 oz. marinara or pizza sauce

Cookware:

2 half sheet pans 

2 bowls for egg mixture and bread crumb mixture

Large spatula 

Whisk 

Microwave safe bowl

Instructions:

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and position your oven racks to the center of the oven.

2. Gather your ingredients and prepare them so you can move swiftly. This is good advice when preparing any recipe; it’s referred to as “Mise En Place,” which translates to “everything in its place.” When you do this, your recipe will come together quickly and cooking times won’t be affected by last minute chopping or shredding.

ingredients for sandwiches laid out on table
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

3. Place the butter on one of your half sheet pans and place it in the oven to melt. Your oven temperature is high so this won’t take long, probably just a minute or two, but keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn or turn brown. The butter will melt and become a little foamy. Remove the pan and tilt it to evenly distribute the butter across the pan, adding more if needed and placing back in the oven to melt. Once your butter is melted and your pan is evenly and thinly coated, place the pan aside.

butter melted and covering half sheet pan
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

4. Lay four pieces of bread on the second sheet pan. This pan is going to be your working pan. Using half the cheese, top each slice evenly.

pieces of bread laid in pan with shredded cheese on top
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

5. Next layer the ham, using four slices per piece of bread, laying the ham across the bread in four small piles.

bread on pan with cheese and ham on top
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

6. Top the ham with the remaining cheese, again distributing it evenly across the ham.

bread slices layered with cheese ham and then more cheese on top
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

7. Place the remaining four slices of bread on top of each stack to complete your sandwiches. Set this pan aside.

sandwiches completed with top piece of bread
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

8. Prepare your egg mixture by whisking the eggs and milk together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Make sure your bowls are large enough that your sandwiches will lay flat in them.

2 bowls one with whisked egg the other with breadcrumb and cheese mixture
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

9. Place the egg mixture, bread crumb mixture, the working pan with the sandwiches on it, and the sheet pan with the melted butter on it within close proximity of each other to make the next steps easier and efficient.

pan with sandwiches, buttered pan, egg wash bowl, and bread crumb bowl on table
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

10. Using two hands, pick up one sandwich and lay it in the egg mixture, and move it around slightly to make sure that the bottom side is well coated. Carefully and quickly flip the sandwich over and do the same thing to the other side.

placing whole sandwich into egg wash
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

11. Once both sides have been coated in the egg mixture, hold the sandwich above the bowl and allow any extra egg to drip off before placing the sandwich into the bread crumb mixture. If you are using shredded cheese and a little falls out, it’s okay, but flipping the sandwich quickly and swiftly is helpful.

12. Repeat this step in the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides. If a few shreds of cheese get on the outside of the sandwich, mixed with the breadcrumbs, that’s a bonus!

placing egg washed sandwhich into breadcrumb mixture to coat
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

13. Place the sandwich on the buttered sheet pan and repeat the process with the three remaining sandwiches.

four coated sandwiches placed onto buttered sheet pan
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

14. Place the buttered pan with the four sandwiches on it in the oven for eight to ten minutes, depending on your preference of crispiness. (I recommend checking them at eight minutes).

sandwiches half way through cooking before flipping
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

15. Gently flip your sandwiches over and cook for an additional eight minutes on the other side.

sandwiches fully cooked in half sheet pan
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

16. When your sandwiches are finished baking, remove them from the oven and allow them to rest while you divide even portions of the marinara sauce for dipping.

sandwich plated, cut in half, served with dipping sauce
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

 

 

close up look into sandwich cut in half
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong

About This Recipe

“Which meal from your childhood is your favorite?” All of my children replied, “Your ham and cheese melts, Mom! We were always excited when we knew you were making them for dinner!” This made me smile, but it also touched my heart because they have no idea how or why I came up with the infamous ham and cheese melts. 

At 31, I was a single mother of four small children under the age of 9. My ex-husband, who was the father of the older three children, was a drug addict. The father of my fourth child was an alcoholic who was absent from her life. I had no parents, no siblings, no grandparents, and I had no idea where any of my aunts, uncles, or cousins even lived. There was no one… it was just me, my four little loves, a mortgage, three jobs, and my pride. 

Our food budget was so tight, the kids couldn’t even get candy at the checkout. I didn’t qualify for food stamps as the process was much more strict back then. I went to food banks and I was thankful for whatever I was given. I never told the kids; I didn’t want them to know. Pride. 

I had been cooking since I was 20. I knew how to cook, I knew the dynamics behind cooking, but I couldn’t afford to do it at the moment, so I created meals by sprucing up packaged food. I would take a can of stew, add macaroni noodles and cheese, and call it beef and noodles. I took a box of macaroni and cheese, added a can of tuna and a can of cream of mushroom soup, baked it, and it was tuna casserole. I realized if I gave each meal a name, the kids wouldn’t know I just made it up. If I could keep the cost of the ingredients to $5 for each meal, I would be within budget. Thinking about that now, I’m shocked I was able to do it, but I did. For years. 

I remember trying to decide what to do for dinner one day. I had bread, American cheese, and some chipped ham left over from the sandwiches we had earlier in the week. I couldn’t make them cold ham sandwiches again so soon, plus they didn’t really like them and they needed a warm meal. I had eggs; I could’ve made French toast but we didn’t have syrup. They didn’t like ham on their grilled cheese because they said it made them soggy. How could I get them crispy?

I know when chicken is dipped in egg and then in bread crumbs and baked, it gets crispy. I had a box of Stove Top Stuffing that we had gotten in a food box. I crushed up the stuffing cubes and made bread crumbs. There was no dipping sauce back then (that came later). The white bread became Italian bread, the American cheese became provolone, and the chipped ham is now much better quality. But you know what? These sandwiches became a family favorite and they are part of our story. And the kids never knew.

Single mom takes family picture with grown adult children and grandbabies.
Courtesy of Jody Armstrong
sandwich plated, cut in half, served with dipping sauce

Crispy Ham And Cheese Melts Recipe

Your kids and your wallet will love these spruced-up ham and cheese sandwiches!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 sandwiches

Equipment

  • 2 half sheet pans
  • 2 small bowls (for egg mixture and bread crumb mixture)
  • large spatula
  • whisk
  • microwave-safe bowl

Ingredients
  

  • 8 slices Italian bread
  • 8 oz. shredded provolone cheese (or 8 slices)
  • 16 slices deli ham
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. marinara or pizza sauce

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and position your oven racks to the center of the oven.
  • Gather your ingredients and prepare them so you can move swiftly. This is good advice when preparing any recipe; it’s referred to as “Mise En Place,” which translates to “everything in its place.” When you do this, your recipe will come together quickly and cooking times won’t be affected by last minute chopping or shredding.
  • Place the butter on one of your half sheet pans and place it in the oven to melt. Your oven temperature is high so this won’t take long, probably just a minute or two, but keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn or turn brown. The butter will melt and become a little foamy. Remove the pan and tilt it to evenly distribute the butter across the pan, adding more if needed and placing back in the oven to melt. Once your butter is melted and your pan is evenly and thinly coated, place the pan aside.
  • Lay four pieces of bread on the second sheet pan. This pan is going to be your working pan. Using half the cheese, top each slice evenly.
  • Next layer the ham, using four slices per piece of bread, laying the ham across the bread in four small piles.
  • Top the ham with the remaining cheese, again distributing it evenly across the ham.
  • Place the remaining four slices of bread on top of each stack to complete your sandwiches. Set this pan aside.
  • Prepare your egg mixture by whisking the eggs and milk together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Make sure your bowls are large enough that your sandwiches will lay flat in them.
  • Place the egg mixture, bread crumb mixture, the working pan with the sandwiches on it, and the sheet pan with the melted butter on it within close proximity of each other to make the next steps easier and efficient.
  • Using two hands, pick up one sandwich and lay it in the egg mixture, and move it around slightly to make sure that the bottom side is well coated. Carefully and quickly flip the sandwich over and do the same thing to the other side.
  • Once both sides have been coated in the egg mixture, hold the sandwich above the bowl and allow any extra egg to drip off before placing the sandwich into the bread crumb mixture. If you are using shredded cheese and a little falls out, it’s okay, but flipping the sandwich quickly and swiftly is helpful.
  • Repeat this step in the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides. If a few shreds of cheese get on the outside of the sandwich, mixed with the breadcrumbs, that’s a bonus!
  • Place the sandwich on the buttered sheet pan and repeat the process with the three remaining sandwiches.
  • Place the buttered pan with the four sandwiches on it in the oven for eight to ten minutes, depending on your preference of crispiness. (I recommend checking them at eight minutes).
  • Gently flip your sandwiches over and cook for an additional eight minutes on the other side.
  • When your sandwiches are finished baking, remove them from the oven and allow them to rest while you divide even portions of the marinara sauce for dipping.
Keyword budget, crispy, melts, sandwiches

This recipe was submitted to Love What Matters by Jody Armstrong. You can follow her on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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