October 10, 2007

Croque Monsieur



Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
4 slices French loaf bread*
4 slices Gruyère or sharp Swiss cheese
4 slices high quality ham, medium thickness**
nutmeg
salt
pepper

Directions:

For the béchamel: In a small pan, melt the butter. Add the flour along with a sprinkle of nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir until smooth. Add the milk and whisk together until slightly thickened. Set aside.

For each sandwich: Heat a large skillet. Place the bread on the (ungreased) skillet. Place the ham beside the bread on the skillet. Cook for about 1-2 minutes or until the bread is slightly toasted, then flip the bread and the slice of ham and cook 1 additional minute on the other side. Place the ham on top of the bread and turn off the heat. Drizzle with béchamel sauce and top with one slice of cheese. Place on a oven safe tray and broil for about 2 minutes or until the cheese is hot and bubbly. Remove to a plate and serve.


*Trader Joe's sells a presliced French style loaf bread that works really well here.
**I like to buy those boneless hams and cut a slice off of that rather than to use presliced meat.

Yield 4 sandwiches

My thoughts:
As you might recall, I am teaching a quick Continental Cuisine class through a local community college. It is only a 3 week class and I have to cover three cuisines, so each cuisine (French, Italian and Spanish) only gets one two-hour class. It is a bit of a time crunch since we have to cook, eat and clean all in those two hours, but I think I am up to the challenge. Since today's the first class, I kept it simple and went with the French classic Croque Monsieur. Now I know some people make this differently, but to me the simple way is the best: good ham, good bread, and good cheese, a little bit of béchamel sauce and served open faced. I love making it with Gruyère, but that is some times difficult to find (I went to four stores and came up empty handed) so for class I substituted an easier to find high quality, sharp Swiss and I think it came out just as well.