Friday, July 12, 2013

What a Croque, Monsieur!

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"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…

Béchamel Sauce
1 tablespoon butter (not dairy spread)
1 tablespoon plain flour
100mls milk
50g Gruyère cheese, grated
a pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
¼ teaspoon fine table salt




The Sandwich
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 !
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19 comments:

Rosemary Wolbert said...

Pure and simple decadence, Hester. Right up my alley. Or should I say . . rue!

Erica said...

I have one very simple comment: Mmmm....

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

Mais oui!!

I once had a croque monsieur at a horribly overpriced restaurant on the Champs Elysees. I'd take your version any day.

Guru Uru said...

Haha I suddenly had an image of a sandwich with a thin curly moustache... Hmmm :P
This looks super delicious for sure!

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

Sapana Behl said...

That's so good!
Do participate in my event
@Fast!Fresh!Simple

Bam's Kitchen said...

Bonjour... A perfect little sandwich and of course with a little red wine. Bon Appetite! Take Care, BAM

Sissi said...

I love croque-monsieur! It's such a simple but delicious snack (though as an egg addict I prefer croque-madame ;-) ). I also love Allô allô! It's hilarious and so silly! I have watched it already several times. Now that you have reminded me I will watch some more (I even have a dvd...).

Jeannie Tay said...

Looks yummy and fulfilling!

motherrimmy said...

I totally agree with your remark about plastic ham and industrial cheese. Yuk! I want your sandwich - the Gruyere and hint of nutmeg take it over the top. Have a terrific Sunday!



Tiffany said...

You had me at Dijon! :D

Andrea_TheKitchenLioness said...

Hester, this is one wonderful and delicious sandwich that we never ever tire of - and if you use those good quality ingredients, it is even more fabulous - what a nice post and great reminder to be making this wonderful sandwich treat again soon!
Have a lovely Monday!

Anne@FromMySweetHeart said...

Oh Hester...your opening paragraph is just awesome....so visual...it just made me grin. So did this sandwich! It's one of my favorites and you did it up right! : )

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Hi Hester! I learned about Croque Monsieur from some food blog maybe 2 years ago. I've never had it, but I still remember the name because it's so unique! I should give this a try. Love how simple it is, yet it looks so good from your pictures!

wok with ray said...

I've never had this sandwich before but I must tell you. . . I can't get over that image of melting cheese, Hester. My mouth is watering. :)

Fran @ G'day Souffle' said...

How well I remember the Croque Monsieur from my days in Paris, but I prefer the Croque Madame since it has the added egg (and therefore you can better justify the high prices you are paying for the food in Paris!)Thanks for sharing!

Dana @ Simply Romanesco said...

This little sandwich looks amazing! Scrumptious and filling! And I would love it for lunch right now :)

Purabi Naha | Cosmopolitan Currymania said...

Wow, this sandwich is the ultimate comfort food! I loved the bechamel sauce poured over it!!

Amy (Savory Moments) said...

This looks so wonderful! I've actually never had this sandwich, but I think I should. I love your comment about the ham, too -- the good stuff -- not that wet plastic stuff! :-)

Liz Berg said...

Gorgeous!!! I love croque monsieurs!