Croque-Monsieur: The ultimate ham-and cheese sandwich
My daughter and I are going to France this week so I would like to share a recipe for a classic French sandwich.
I would like to give you two variations on this sandwich that the French consider their “street food” kind of like a hot dog or hamburger … But of course the French would be extremely offended by that.
Even “street food” in France, according to them, should be considered GOURMET. That may be just my take on that, but I think I’m right. At any rate, I hope you enjoy both recipes for the classic Croque-Monsieur.
6 T. (3Ú4 stick) butter, divided
1Ú2 cup finely chopped onion
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1Ú4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 large onions, thinly sliced
61Ú2 inch thick slices 7-by-4-inch country-style white bread
31Ú2 cups (packed) grated gruyere cheese
6 ounces thinly sliced ham
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add finely chopped onion and sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Add thyme sprig, bay leaf and pinch of nutmeg. Add flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper. (Béchamel sauce can be made one day ahead.) Cover and refrigerate.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add thinly sliced onions and cook until soft and beginning to turn golden, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until onions are deep golden brown, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes. (Caramelized onions can be made one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place rack on baking sheet. Place bread slices on rack. Spread 1 generous tablespoon béchamel sauce over each bread slice.
Scatter 2 tablespoons caramelized onions over béchamel. Sprinkle with cup cheese, then one ounce (about two slices) ham. Spread 2 generous tablespoons of béchamel sauce over ham, then sprinkle with 1Ú3 cup cheese. Bake sandwiches until cheese is brown, about 10 minutes.
Another recipe (Molly’s style … I like this better) Same quantities, but a little different method. A few other ingredients.
I like to make my Croque-Monsieurs a little more kid-friendly. I start by deleting the sautéed onions used in the previous recipe. I add a thin spread of Dijon mustard on the inside of each bread slice. I also use San Franciscan-style sliced sourdough bread.
I sauté my Croque-Monsieurs in a pan with a tablespoon of unsalted butter and a tablespoon of good-quality olive oil instead of just baking them. I brown both sides of the Croque-Monsieur in a sauté pan.
Then I transfer the partially cooked sandwich onto a baking sheet, spoon the bechamel sauce onto the top of the sandwich, grate some asiago cheese on top of the bechamel sauce and pop the sandwich under a hot broiler and let it cook until it is bubbling and golden. I dust them with freshly diced chives, cut to desired size … and enjoy.
Either recipe for a Croque-Monsieur is great. Just choose the one that sounds best to you and yours. Relax and enjoy a taste of France. I’ll eat a few while I’m there. Au revoir!
n Molly Gingell is the owner of Molly’s Gourmet Catering, Takeout and Cooking School at 220 W. John St. in Carson City.