Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Croque Monsieur

I believe any meat/cheese sandwich is improved by serving it on grilled or toasted bread. The crunchiness of the bread often creates a lovely textural balance to the creamy cheese and tender meat. My husband is a man of simple tastes who could (and sometimes does) eat the same meal every day and be perfectly content. His sandwiches are just as delicious on untoasted bread, thankyouverymuch. For that reason, I always feel so loved when he offers to grill my sandwich. For him, it's a real act of love. :)

This is the toasted sandwich's slightly saucy cousin, pinky high in the air. It's your standard ham and cheese, but elevated to new heights by switching out the usual Swiss cheese for a creamy, nutty, and utterly delicious Gruyere cheese. The sandwich is then topped with a creamy Mornay sauce and broiled, just until bubbly. If you've never tried a Mornay sauce, it is incredibly similar to a bechamel sauce, except with the addition of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.

All put together and topped with some fresh chives, this sandwich is a thing of beauty.

Another beautiful thing?

Leftover Mornay sauce.

Which just happens to be the perfect sauce for Kentucky Hot Browns.

Oh yes. Just in time for the Kentucky Derby this Saturday. I'll be sharing that recipe with you tomorrow. In the meantime, here's how you make the sauce and assemble the sandwich:

Mornay Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp. finely chopped yellow onion
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 4 black peppercorns, cracked
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk (I used 1% with no problem)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 c. (approx. 2 ounces) finely grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 c. (1 ounce) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, salt, and cracked peppercorns, and cook about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft, but has not begun to color. 2. Remove from the heat, and add the flour in 2 batches, whisking to combine it with the onion and butter. Return the pan to the stove, and over low heat, cook a few minutes, until the flour is absorbed, stirring constantly so that it doesn't brown. Remove from the heat, and slowly whisk in the milk and add the bay leaf. 3. Return the pan to the stove, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the taste of raw flour is gone and the mixture is thick, smooth, and silky. If it's too thick and becoming difficult to stir, you'll need to whisk in a little more milk.

4. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the sauce. Wash and dry the pan, and pour the sauce back into it. Over low heat, add the two cheeses, a little at a time, stirring until they are completely melted. Or, 5. Add the cheese into the bowl, then transfer sauce into clean pan. 6. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon.

*I found leftover sauce will keep fine for 2-3 days if refrigerated. Reheat gently over low heat.

Croque Monsieur
Serves: 4
  • 8 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced into 24-32, 1/16"-thick slices
  • 12 ounces smoked ham, such as Black Forest, sliced into 12-16, 1/16" thick slices
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
Adjust the oven rack to the upper position, and preheat the broiler. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Set half of the slices of bread buttered side down, and cover them with the Gruyere cheese slices, folding them back in toward the middle if they extend past the edges of the bread. Place 3-4 slices of ham in an even layer over the cheese, and put the top slice of bread over the ham, buttered side up.

Grill the sandwich, either in a pre-heated panini maker, or a heavy-bottomed pan or cast iron skillet, until golden on both sides.

Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and spoon the Mornay over them, leaving a 1-inch border of bread. Heat under the broiler for a minute or two, until the sauce is bubbling. Sprinkle the chives over the sandwich and serve.

Source: Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book

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