So…I tried croque monsieur at the fanciest farmer’s market I’ve ever been to in California when we were there in early March. Monsieur Marcel was the name of the French restaurant inside this glorious, gourmet farmers market. I could have spent hours in the grocery section of Monsieur Marcel. The cookbooks! The madeleines! The baguettes! Anyway, the sandwich was so delicious that of course I wanted to re-create it at home. And it’s only taken me a few months, ha ha! If you’re not familiar (I wasn’t) Croque Monsieur is basically a ham and cheese with extra cheese broiled on top. That’s probably over simplifying it, but those are it’s most basic components. Well, I tried Ina Garten’s recipe from Barefoot in Paris, and I of course thought it was delicious, but my husband not so much. I think I went a little too heavy with the cream/cheese sauce it calls for, and plus it sat a little longer than I wanted it to (#notmyfault #husbandwhyaren’tyouontime???) and the bread got a little “soggy.” My dear husband cannot abide sogginess of any kind. So, I tried it again today and came up with this:
I used the same cheese sauce but put it on the INSIDE of the sandwich, not on top, and in lieu of Gruyere as the cheese on top, I just used some sharp cheddar. I think the double whammy of Gruyere in the sauce and on top was too much for Scott. He said it had “much better flavor” this go around. So! If you’re looking for something a little different to work into your lunchtime rotation, this hearty sandwich has a little Euro-flair (don’t tell the guys) but it’s still down to earth! here’s the recipe! Full disclosure: this is NOT my recipe, I just tweaked it! Sending all the love to Ina in the Hamptons!
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups) (I did NOT use 5 cups of Gruyere, probably more like 3, plus extra for sprinkling)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.
To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, (spread on your desired amount of Gruyere sauce) add a slice of ham to each. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce (if desired), sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere (or cheddar if you or your husband likes plainer fare), and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.