A French-style warmer

Feb 20, 2018

One of my favorite sandwiches in the winter – or really anytime of the year – is a Croque Monsieur.

Credit Jennifer Chandler

I had my first Croque Monsieur when I lived in France during culinary school.  To this day it has remained my favorite sandwich.

Basically, a Croque Monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. But the French have elevated what would be a simple sandwich into a work of art! A classic ham and cheese is slathered with a béchamel sauce to make it even more indulgent.

The key to a good Croque Monsieur are the ingredients. Since the ingredients are few, you need to use good ones. Traditionally, a nutty Gruyere or Swiss Emmental is used.  Most markets carry these cheeses but in a pinch, a good Swiss cheese could be substituted. As for the ham, look for a tasty baked variety.

The béchamel sauce is what makes this sandwich. Considered a “mother” sauce in French cuisine, a béchamel is very simple to prepare.  Butter and flour are cooked together over low heat before milk and cheese are added to make this traditional cheese sauce. Thanks to the cheesy goodness that the sauce adds, it really is a knife and fork kind of sandwich.

Feeling indulgent? Top your Croque Monsieur with a fried egg and you will be enjoying a treat the French call a Croque Madame.

This classic French treat is perfect for supper, lunch, or a weekend brunch.  They are so rich, serve them simply with a salad or soup.  However you choose to serve them, I bet they will become your family’s favorite ham and cheese sandwich too.

This is Jennifer Chandler with The Weekly Dish. Bon Appetit!

Croque Monsieur

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 slices white sandwich bread, lightly toasted

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 pound baked ham, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. When the butter starts to foam, add the flour. Cook, whisking until thickened, about 1 minute. While continuing to whisk, gradually add the milk. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the nutmeg, Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of the Gruyere. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

To assemble the sandwiches, place 4 slices of the toasted bread on a baking sheet. Lightly brush each of the slices with 1 tablespoon of mustard. Top each with 1/4 of the ham and 1/8 of the remaining Gruyere (about 1/4 cup). Top each with one of the remaining toasted bread slices. Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the tops of the sandwiches and sprinkle each with 1/4 of the remaining Gruyere. Transfer to the oven and bake until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 4.

Printed with permission from Simply Suppers by Jennifer Chandler.