Tasty Tuesday: Croques, Monsieurs et Madames?

Welcome to Couleur Nature’s Tasty Tuesday, a weekly feature on a French recipe—with tantalizing pictures to accompany!

 

I admit, I’ve never really liked ham and cheese sandwiches.

 

But I guess I just never had the right kind.

 

That is, until now.

Croque Monsieur

Via Confections of a Foodie Bride

Croque Monsieurs, or “Crunchy Misters”, are standard fare in Parisian cafes (McDonald’s being no exception), yet are simple enough to make at home. And for such a simple sandwich, the result is absolutely delicious. There are so many different textures and tastes all harmonizing to create what I believe, dare I say, is the perfect ham and cheese sandwich.

It’s cute too, how these are named as his and her sandwiches. Top one off with a fried egg and you now have a croque  madame!

 

Croque Madame

Via There’s a Newf in My Soup

 

The French version of the classic ham and cheese toastie has a humble history: the creation myth suggests that a group of workmen left their lunches next to a radiator all morning, and, come lunchtime, were rather delighted with the result.

What I believe sets this apart from other ham and cheese sandwiches is the Béchamel sauce topping, a distinctly French addition. (Julia Child opted to leave it out in her recipe, but I don’t think this wouldn’t be a croque monsieur without it.)

There are so many ways to add variety to the croque monsieur, whether you add in some tomatoes for Provencal style, or some chiles for a mild kick. But, a classic is a classic, and it doesn’t get any better than the original.

 

Croque Monsieur/Madame

Makes 2 Sandwiches

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup milk, heated
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the Sandwiches:

  • 4 thick slices Italian or French loaf bread, crusts removed
  • 3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about 3/4 cups grated)
  • 6 oz. thinly sliced ham (about 6 slices)
  • Dijon mustard
  • 2 fried eggs (optional)

*The best cheese for croque monsieurs is Franche-Comté Gruyère, but if you can’t come across any, Emmental is an appropriate substitute.

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. For the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter begins to bubble, add in the flour and stir constantly until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly add in the milk, stirring constantly, cooking until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/8 cup of the Gruyère and set aside.
  3. Lay out bread slices on baking sheets and brush them with softened butter, toasting in the oven for a few minutes on each side.
  4. Lightly brush half the slices with mustard. Evenly divide the ham between the two slices and top with 1/4 cup of cheese. Cover with other toasted bread. Generously spread the bechamel sauce over each of the sandwiches and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil for about 3 minutes, or until cheese topping is bubbling and lightly browned. Remove from oven and set sandwiches on a plate. For croque madames, top sandwiches with a fried egg, sunny side up. Enjoy!

 

Do you like your croques plain, or with a bit of fun? I’m looking forward to trying one with some baby bella mushrooms and smoky bacon! What other variations can you dream up?

 

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