Let’s talk about Croque Monsieur, essentially a grilled cheese sandwich with the addition of ham, and a very French name. Oh, and a blanket of creamy béchamel sauce with melted cheese. Sound intriguing? It’s easy to make a great version of this classic sandwich at home. Beloved by brunchers all over the world, this sandwich has a few simple ingredients, so select the best. Choose slices of freshly-baked French bread, Gruyère or Emmental cheese, and our Applewood Smoked Ham – or the more traditional Berkshire Bistro Ham.
America is a confirmed sandwich nation. Everywhere you go you find sandwich stands, sandwich shops, and nine out of ten people seem to stick to the sandwich-and-glass-of-milk or cup-of-coffee luncheon. – James Beard
Making Croque Monsieur
First, toast the bread slices. Croque means crunch in French, and this step is crucial in providing that desired texture. Spread the bread with a little Dijon mustard and place ham and cheese slices between the bread slices. Lay the sandwiches on a sheet tray and pre-heat your broiler.
Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce for the top of the sandwiches. You start by making a basic béchamel, or a thickened milk sauce. Do this by melting 2 tablespoons of butter (we use truffle butter) in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir to combine, then stir for 2 minutes to cook out any taste of flour. Slowly add 1 cup of milk, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Let the mixture come to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes, or until thickened.
Turn this béchamel sauce into a cheese sauce by adding 1 cup of the same Gruyère cheese, grated. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and incorporated. Season the sauce to taste with salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. The sauce will be more than enough for two sandwiches.
Ladle the finished cheese sauce on top of the sandwiches, covering the top of the bread entirely. Place the sandwiches under the broiler, about 4 inches from the heating element, and cook until the sauce is bubbly and golden brown and the cheese between the bread is melted. Serve immediately with a simple green salad.
Follow our recipe for Croque Monsieur with bistro ham or an alternative with mushrooms and truffle butter béchamel sauce.
And for Madame?
Once you have mastered the Croque Monsieur, go one step further to achieve the Croque Madame!
Simply add a fried egg on top of the Croque Monsieur and you have the elegant variation. The Croque Madame is a perfect brunch item, especially with a glass of champagne and fresh fruit. Our recipe for this classic uses Berkshire bistro ham for an authentically Parisian touch.
Featured photo: Collective Nouns on Flickr.
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