It's a sandwich. It's a grilled cheese. It's a grilled-cheese sandwich deserving of so much respect you call it, "Mister" or "Missus". I'd like you to meet Croque-Monsieur and Croque-Madame.
What's in a name?
The literal translation of Croque-Monsier and Croque-Madame from French to English means 'Mr. Crunch' and 'Mrs. Crunch', from the verb 'croquer'- to crunch. Other fantastic 'croque' foods include Croquembouche and Croquettes. Croquembouche are cream puffs filled with pastry cream and dipped in caramel- usually presented as a spectacular large cone-shape at weddings where the caramel hardens to a crunchy garnish (Crunch-in-mouth). Croquettes are savoury cakes of minced food- usually potato- breaded and fried until the exterior is crispy.
So what is a Croque-Monsieur? It's a fried sandwich prepared with ham & Gruyere cheese, topped with Béchamel sauce and broiled in the oven until the sauce is browned & crunchy. Add a fried egg once it comes out from the broiler and it becomes a Croque-Madame. It really is wonderful. Of course many variations exist of the recipe- keep reading for my version.
Earlier in the week I made a post with a recipe for making "Lobster Mac 'n Cheese". The recipe included directions for preparing a cheese sauce using the classic French Mother sauce, Béchamel. If you have any of that delicious sauce left over, this is a great way to use it up. If you don't- it's easy to prepare a small batch in very little time.
As mentioned, many variations exist for creating this sandwich. Some call for removing the crusts, using only Gruyere cheese, melting cheese in the sauce, using only ham, etc. but I think you can play around and still achieve success by using what you have available. Two things are a must for it to be a Croque-Monsieur though: it must be broiled with Béchamel sauce on top and the bread must NOT be that squishy, sweet, bleached pseudo-variety known as Wonder-something-or-other. Today might be a good day to pull out the bread maker that's taking up precious cupboard space.
2 c Béchamel sauce (recipe below)
8 slices of good bread, with or without crusts
8 slices of sliced or shaved black forest ham (or sliced turkey, chicken, bacon)
2 c grated sharp cheese (Swiss, Gruyere, Aged Cheddar best but Gouda, Provolone would work)
4 T grainy mustard
4 T butter
Pre-heat oven to broil with oven rack in the middle.
Spread each slice of bread with butter one side. On the opposite side, spread 4 slices of bread with grainy mustard and the other 4 slices with 1/4 c of Béchamel. On each mustard slice, layer with 2 slices of ham and 1/4 c of grated cheese. Place the Béchamel spread slices on top of the cheese, butter-side out.
In an oven-safe skillet pan over medium heat, fry the sandwiches on one side until crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip each sandwich over. On the toasted brown side, spread 1/4 c more of Béchamel sauce onto each sandwich and top with another 1/4 of grated cheese. Place the entire pan into the oven, and broil until tops are browned and bubbly. If preparing Croque-Madame, place a fried egg on the sandwich as soon as it is removed from the oven. Serve hot with fork and knife.
Béchamel Sauce- Basic White Sauce Recipe
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.