There are as many versions of this classic French sandwich as there are Parisian cafes that have it on their menus. The Croque Monsieur, or “Crispy Mister” appeared on French menus in 1910 and was simply a ham and Gruyere sandwich fried in butter. A good one is typically topped with either extra grated cheese or a bechamel or mornay sauce. The best must be eaten with a knife and fork. A Croque Madame is a regular croque with an egg on top.
I’ve always had a weakness for these cheesy, gooey, buttery concoctions, but a recent event changed my palate forever…I went to Paris where I found the simple version of the ham and cheese, on a baguette of course, sans butter, mayo or any other enhancement beyond the quality of the components and a little lettuce. If you want to splurge, this adaptation of Ina Garten’s recipe is a good one, but a little rich for me now after several weeks of enjoying the bare naked version of the famous combo.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups hot milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- dash nutmeg
- 10 ounces Gruyere, grated
- 8 slices white bread, crusts removed
- Dijon mustard
- 12 ounches sliced baked ham
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small saucepan make a bechamel sauce using the butter, flour, seasonings and milk. Add 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese and stir until cheese has melted and the sauce is thick.
Toast the bread on a baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes.
Lightly brush the toasted bread with mustard, add slices of ham to half the slices and sprinkle with half of the the remaining cheese. Top with another slice of bread. Slather the tops of the sandwiches with cheese sauce and add the remaining Gruyere. Bake for 5 minutes. then broil for another 3-5 minutes or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.