|"Je ne regret rien!"|
This sandwich is so stereotypically French it might as well be wearing a beret and sporting a black and white striped t-shirt, as it wobbles its way down an old country lane on an ancient black bicycle, swinging a string of onions in a carefree manner and leaving a gentle waft of garlic and lunchtime Bordeaux on the breeze while humming “Je ne regret rien” under its breath on its way to visit its mistress.
Cliché, cliché, cliché! When have you ever encountered such a character outside the set of ‘Allo ‘Allo? Sadly, with the Croque Monsieur, unless you are extremely lucky, the same will probably be true.
In theory, the Croque Monsieur is a slightly more sophisticated version of a ham and cheese toastie.
In practice, too often it is an unappetizing weapon made of slightly sweetish long-life bread, plastic ham, industrial cheese, and white sauce, welded together under a grill and then used to extort up to €10 from hapless, hungry tourists.
If you want one, go buy some decent ingredients and make it yourself, reinstating it to King of the Sandwich (or one of its close cousins). It is traditional to take the crusts off but I prefer mine crusts on.
For two sandwiches you will need…
1 tablespoon butter (not dairy spread)
1 tablespoon plain flour
50g Gruyère cheese, grated
a pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
¼ teaspoon fine table salt
4 slices good quality country-style bread, about 1cm thick
1 tablespoon butter (you’ll be frying the sandwich so dairy spread won’t do)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
50g Gruyère cheese, grated
2 slices good quality ham (I prefer a cured ham but regular ham will do as long as it is not the wet plastic stuff)
an extra 25g Gruyère cheese, grated, for sprinkling over the top
First make the béchamel sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and stir into the butter with a wooden spoon. Cook gently for 2 minutes (if you skip this step the sauce will taste of raw flour). Now, swap the wooden spoon for a whisk and slowly pour the milk in, whisking all the time. Once these ingredients have been combined, turn up the heat to medium and keep stirring until it starts to bubble gently and has thickened. Add the grated Gruyère and stir into the sauce until the cheese has melted. Remove from the heat and season with a little nutmeg and the salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Set aside while you assemble the sandwiches.
To assemble the sandwiches, butter one side of each slice of bread. Place two slices butter-side down and smear with Dijon mustard. Top each slice with about 25g cheese and a slice of ham and place the other slice of bread on top, again, butter-side out.
Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry each sandwich on both sides until golden brown (about 1 minute each side). While the sandwiches are frying, preheat the grill.
When the sandwiches are ready, remove from the pan and spread (one side only) with the béchamel sauce, spreading right to the edges to prevent the crusts burning under the grill. Sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère before placing under the hot grill until spotted with golden bubbles. Ooh la la !Pin It