Thursday, April 23, 2009

Croque Monsieur - The Uber Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Croque Monsieur should be on the list of dishes that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. Creamy, cheesy, indulgent, the croque monsieur is to a toasted cheese sandwich what the Eiffel Tower is to a sandcastle. Unfortunately it is also probably on the Heart Foundation's list of dishes people should try no more than once in a lifetime. According to Wikipedia, the croque monsieur was born more than 100 years ago when workers left ham and cheese sandwiches near radiators that melted the cheese. By 1910, you could order one in a Parisian cafe, and by 1918, Proust had added the croque monsieur to his madeleine memories in "Remembrance of Things Past". In the intervening years, the recipe for a croque has been further modified to include a bechamel sauce over the top, and a spreading of dijon in the sandwich itself.

This Barefoot Contessa recipe is (as far as I can tell anyway), a fairly authentic take on the croque monsieur, as still served in Paris. It was chosen by Kathy of All Food Considered - thanks for the indulgence! We made these as a wicked breakfast treat. Next time I make these, they will be bite-size appetizers... for me, this level of indulgence is best taken one mouthful at a time, and after 7:30am.

from "Barefoot in Paris" by Ina Garten

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
350g Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces ham, sliced but not paper thin
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.
To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted. Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.


Stewart said...

The 'mousieur' is all very well but why not add an egg? The 'madame' will always have a special place in my (damaged) heart

chocolatechic said...

I'll be making this again and again.

I loved it.

Rosabela said...

Hi Suzie,

Your Croque Monsieur looks wonderful! I also made the this for BB and it was delicious.

Also, thanks for the quick history lesson on this classic sandwich! I referenced you in my post regarding the history lesson and added a link to your blog. I hope it's okay. I think you did an excellent job with it!

Take care,

Penny said...

Thanks for researching the history of this decadent sandwich. Good post.

Reeni♥ said...

That looks incredible! So cheesy and delicious!

Rebecca said...

Gah, this is a monster sandwich, but I agree, you've got to try it at least once.

Debinhawaii said...

You sandwich turned out gorgeous! I didn't look up the background on them, that was interesting. I think you are right--these are not something you should eat often! ;-)

Summer said...

It looks delicious. We loved these too. Definitely not healthy though. I served mine with a salad to pretend the meal was better for me :)

Leslie said...

I loved hearing about the history of the sandwich! And I think yours looks delicious! I don't think our arteries can stand a steady diet of these but it was a nice treat.

Tonya @ What's On My Plate said...

I love the history lesson. I've been eating these for years and had no idea!

Meryl said...

What a great idea to make these bite sized! That's about the perfect portion!

Kelly said...

Great post! I agree this is not one to be eating on a regular basis! Unlike my BB croque monsieur, was thinking this sandwich could be made a whole lot healthier and still stay true to its origin by using a fraction of the cheese "sauce" on top, less cheese inside the sandwich and adding green herbs/arugula. I'll try it next time this way... (maybe in a few months or next year!) lol!