Monday, February 22, 2010

CROQUE-MONSIEUR


There are many things the French do exquisitely: a crisp plate of pommes frites, the iconic Hermes scarve and a glass of brut champagne immediately come to mind. But let us not forget their take on the great American classic grilled cheese sandwich; the croque-monsieur. I had my first croque-monsieur in college while a student studying abroad.  With limited funds, dinner at a bistro was a treat, and the croque-monsieur became the perfect comfort food. Made with thinly sliced jambon de Paris ham and Gruyere cheese and topped with a nutty bechamel sauce, this French classic has a crisp exterior and a deliciously creamy interior. Perfect for a late night dinner, I like to serve a simple garden salad with a mustard vinegrette on the side.  If you want to gild the lily,  try a lightly fried egg to the top of your sandwich, making a croque-madame. Oh la la.

CROQUE-MONSIEUR
serves four

Bechamel sauce:
3 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cus whole milk
pinck nutmeg, salt and pepper


for the sandwiches:
8 slices high quality bread, Pullman
12 oz. thinly sliced jambon de Paris ham
10 oz. Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and wisk in the flour until blended. Whisk in the milk and cook stirring constantly until thickened, about 7 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread slces on a cookie sheet in a single layer and spread with bechamel-about 1-2 tablespoons per slice. Divide the ham among four of the slices and top all eight slices with equal amounts of grated cheese.
Place the four slices with the bechamel and cheese, cheese side up on top of the slices layered with ham. Bake until cheese topping is melted and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
To make a croque-madame, fry eggs sunny side up and place on top of the finished sandwich. Serve immediately.
adapted from Daniel Boulud

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