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Like a hot ham and cheese sandwich, but slathered with cream sauce and baked to bubbly perfection. (Yeah, it's as good as it sounds.) In France, the croque monsieur is traditionally served as a bar snack, but this recipe scales up easily and is a great brunch for a crowd. And once you master béchamel, the super-simple cream sauce that is the star of this dish, the possibilities are endless—it's the base of so many indulgent classics, from macaroni and cheese to lasagna...and also tastes great on just about anything.
Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 425°. Grate 4 oz. Gruyère on the large holes of a box grater and set aside for later. (If you're not a fan of Gruyère, a sharp cheddar would make a delicious substitute.)
Béchamel time! The first step to making this classic cream sauce is to make a roux, which is really just fat and flour cooked together to create a thickening agent. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour and cook, whisking constantly, until butter and flour are well combined and foaming but still very pale in color, about 2 minutes. (While there are some instances—such as gumbo—in which you actually want a dark-colored roux, this is not one of them.)
Very slowly stream in 1¼ cups whole milk, whisking constantly (this has to be done very gradually because if you incorporate the milk into the roux too quickly, it can become very lumpy), until mixture is pale and smooth. And that's the base of your béchamel sauce!
Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until sauce is thickened (it should leave a trail when you run your whisk through it) and shiny and the foaming has slowed down, 6–8 minutes. It’s important to keep an eye on the béchamel and stir often; otherwise, you can scorch the bottom of the pot and be left with a lumpy sauce with an unpleasant flavor.
Remove from heat and stir in ¾ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg, and 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard.
Using a spoon, spread béchamel over 1 side of each slice of country-style bread, making sure to cover the full surface.
Transfer 4 slices, sauce side up, to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Divide 8 oz. sliced ham among slices on sheet, then top with half of reserved Gruyère.
Top with remaining slices of bread sauce side up. Sprinkle remaining cheese over each.
Bake sandwiches until cheese and sauce are lightly browned and bubbling, 10–15 minutes.
Slice sandwiches crosswise on a diagonal. Serve with cornichons and extra Dijon mustard for dipping alongside. (And make sure you've got time to take a nap.)
Croque MonsieurReviews SectionTurned out so delicious! Much easier to make than I was expecting from reading the recipe. And it came together pretty quickly and not a lot of cleanup! Yay!This hits the spot! Actually quite easy to make and tasted exactly how I hoped it would. Brings me back to trips to France. Thank you!adamleclairOsaka, Japan05/07/20This sandwich was PERFECT! My boyfriend wanted to make grilled cheese and I was excited to find this recipe. A little different than what he said he wanted, but we decided to give it a go. We found delicious country bread from our local bakery that created the perfect canvas for the béchamel sauce, gruyere and ham. The mustard gave it a hint of spice and the cornichones added that balance of tangy to the somewhat heavy sandwich. We did have quite a lot of béchamel left over so that's just something to keep in mind. Otherwise, this dish is perfectionAnonymousKansas City01/12/20Tastes amazing! I used this recipe to practice making bechamel and it came out perfectly. Definitely making it again.AnonymousSouth Africa 01/03/20SO. GOOD. Tastes exactly like the ones I've had in France.This was fantastic. I ended up using 8 oz cheese but everything else was the perfect amount. Add a fried egg on top for a croque madame
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 long loaf rustic bread, such as ciabatta (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3/4 pound sliced ham
- 4 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 ounces)
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in bottom third. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Melt butter in another saucepan over medium heat add flour, whisk to combine, and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme, then gradually whisk in milk. Simmer bechamel 2 minutes, whisking. Remove from heat, and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Cut top crust off bread slice loaf in half horizontally. Fill sandwich with mustard, ham, and half the Gruyere. Toast on a baking sheet until cheese is melted and top is golden brown.
Remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Spread bechamel on top, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Broil until golden brown and bubbling, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from oven garnish with pepper and remaining thyme. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting.
Croque Madame or Monsieur
I love love love this sandwich and after I posted about having one for a late breakfast/early lunch over on Facebook a few days back, I've had several requests to post the recipe for the cheese sauce I used.
There are many variations to this French sandwich that dates back as far as 1910, and apparently started off as a cafe snack. Literally meaning crunch from the French word "croque," the monsieur or mister version is usually served with a Béchamel sauce and the madame with an egg atop, so named it is said because the egg resembles a woman's hat. Very often the sandwich is buttered and grilled in a pan, prepared much like a grilled cheese, but I followed a recipe from Jennifer Chandler's book, Simply Suppers, that called for broiling the sandwich instead, and it was simply marvelous.
Variations aside, Croque Monsieur or Madame, is basically a hot ham and cheese sandwich and somewhat reminiscent of a Kentucky Hot Brown to me. The addition of a spicy mustard gives it a wonderful kick and for mine, I used Colman's mustard, a very spicy British mustard, that was perfect for this blend of flavors.
Not at all a difficult sandwich to make and worth the effort, the trick is coordinating the making of the cheese sauce, with the use of the broiler, with the frying of some eggs, especially when you are making more than one of these at a time. It's nice if you have a helping hand to cook the eggs while you're doing the rest. The original recipe calls for Gruyère cheese, but I'm more apt to have Swiss on hand than Gruyère so I made that substitution since they are somewhat similar cheeses. To make this a Croque Monsieur, simply omit the eggs, though I highly recommend adding them. Just delicious.
Recipe: Croque Madame or Monsieur
©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
|Prep/Cook time: 10 min |||Yield: 4 servings|
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 1 cup of half and half
- Couple gratings of fresh nutmeg
- 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups of shredded Swiss cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper , to taste
- 8 slices of toasted sandwich bread
- Spicy mustard
- 8 slices of smoked sliced deli ham
- 4 fried eggs , done to taste
Preheat broiler. Meanwhile make a very light roux by melting the butter and stirring in the flour, cooking only about a minute. Whisk in the half and half slowly until fully incorporated, and continue whisking until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from burner and grate in nutmeg, adding the Parmesan and 1/4 cup of the Swiss cheese. Stir until cheese is blended in, add salt and pepper and hold over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of half and half if needed to loosen.
Meanwhile, toast the bread under the broiler on both sides, leaving the oven door ajar. Warm the ham in the microwave. Spread a thin layer of mustard to one side of four slices of toast and top each piece with two slices of ham. Sprinkle each sandwich with about 1/8 cup of the Swiss cheese. Place open faced, under the broiler, with the oven door ajar, just until cheese is melted. Remove sandwiches and top with the remaining toast. Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top of each sandwich. If sauce has thickened, stir in just a bit of half and half to loosen first. Divide the remaining Swiss cheese and sprinkle over the top of each sandwich. Place under the broiler, with the door ajar, just until cheese has melted and begins to lightly brown. Top with a fried egg and serve immediately.
I used Colman's mustard, a super spicy English mustard, which was fantastic with this sandwich, but any spicy mustard will do.
Variation: To make this a Croque Monsieur, eliminate the egg. Can also substitute Gruyère cheese for the Swiss. Turn them into Monte Cristo style Croque Monsieur sandwiches by dipping them in a batter made of 3 whisked eggs and about 2/3 cup of milk. Dip and pan fry over medium like a grilled cheese, until golden brown on both sides.
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- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 12 slices favorite bread
- ¼ pound thinly sliced smoked ham
- ¾ cup grated gruyere cheese or any favorite cheese
- Garnishes, optional:
- Pitted olives
Prep time: 10 Minutes Cooking time: About 7 Minutes Butter bread on both sides. Place 6 slices on a baking sheet, 6 on a second sheet. Preheat broiler, then toast 1 side of the bread until golden brown, 1 sheet at a time, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip all bread over and place a slice of ham (or 2 slices for adults) on 6 slices of bread set aside. Sprinkle the cheese on the remaining 6 slices of bread and broil until cheese is melted, bubbling, and golden brown, about 4 minutes. To assemble the sandwiches, place a slice of bread with cheese on top of a slice of bread with ham. Cut the sandwiches in half (or into quarters for kids) and serve hot, with pickles and pitted olives, if desired. How kids can help: Butter the bread and place slices on the baking sheet older kids can layer ham and sprinkle cheese on toasted bread.
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 12 slices favorite bread
- ¼ pound thinly sliced smoked ham
- ¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese or any favorite cheese
- Garnishes (optional):
- Pitted olives
Butter bread on both sides. Place 6 slices on a baking sheet, 6 on a second sheet.
Preheat broiler, then toast 1 side of the bread until golden brown, 1 sheet at a time, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip all bread over and place a slice of ham (or 2 slices for adults) on 6 slices of bread set aside.
Sprinkle the cheese on the remaining 6 slices of bread and broil until cheese is melted, bubbling, and golden brown, about 4 minutes.
To assemble the sandwiches, place a slice of bread with cheese on top of a slice of bread with ham. Cut the sandwiches in half (or into quarters for kids) and serve hot, with pickles and pitted olives, if desired.
How Kids Can Help: Butter the bread and place slices on the baking sheet older kids can layer ham and sprinkle cheese on toasted bread.
Place a large cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Meanwhile, using a serrated knife, make about 7 vertical cuts in each bagel, making sure not to cut all the way through.
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, egg, mustard, and 1 pinch nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Soak each bagel in the batter for 1 minute, then turn and soak the other side for 1 additional minute make sure the custard seeps into the slits. Lift soaked bagels and let excess batter drip off, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Cut Swiss cheese slices to sizes that will fit inside the bagel slits. Wrap each cheese slice in an appropriately sized piece of ham. (Depending on how large they are, you may need to cut the slices of ham into halves or thirds to get them to the right size.) Wedge a ham-wrapped piece of cheese into each bagel slit.
Remove cast iron skillet from oven and add butter. Allow to melt and foam, swirling pan so butter evenly coats the bottom, then add bagels, bottom side down. Transfer to oven and cook until cheese is melted and bagels and ham are browning in spots, about 10 minutes.
Remove pan from oven. Switch oven to broiler mode and place oven rack in top position. Pour Mornay sauce all over the tops of the bagels, then cook under broiler until browned and charred in spots, about 4 minutes, checking frequently to make sure they don't burn. Serve.
Basically Croque Monsieur - Recipes
Croque Monsieur, hello! When choosing my next "Learn With Me" recipe I wanted to tackle something obtainable, that wouldn't discourage me and this column (my biggest fear)! Without getting too serious, because it is really, just a grilled cheese, this french version taught me a whole lot (really) and if you're like me, just learning or a well-seasoned cook, following directions to anything is key. And the key here is butter! Butter, butter, butter! Oh and of course butter!
Actually there are a lot of keys to a good Croque Monsieur, and what I learned by not only following the recipe from Madame Ginette Mathiot, and researching it, there are quite a few versions. Which is the most authentic? That is debatable, and probably depends in which region in France you are eating it. When I lived in Montreal, I was most familiar with the bundled version a nice little packet of grilled cheesy goodness, wrapped in parchment making it not so messy when grabbing a fast lunch. But the ones you see most in recipe books include the béchamel version, which folks, is a whole other animal. So today I present you, the one I'm most familiar, and luckily, Madame Mathiot is too!
Croque means crunch, and as I mentioned, butter is key and is what gives this French bistro favorite its' crunch. There is an entire stick of butter, so it's almost deep fried —and this is what differentiates it from an American grilled cheese. Oh, and the gruyere! It's a little tricky in that the bread can go soggy from all the butter soaking in, so a staler bread is what is recommended (or toast fresher bread a bit first), along with the correct cooking temperature. Learn with me!
Croque Monsieur (makes 2)
4 slices of white (staler side) bread (trim off crusts)
1 stick of butter
4 slices of gruyere cheese (or enough to cover each 2 pieces of bread)
2 pieces of ham (trimmed the same size as the bread)
kitchen twine (to tie around the sandwich)
Optional - dijon mustard
Like my previous Learn with Me recipe, I've tested this several times. And this time, I wasn't able to follow directions quite exactly, which I'll explain in steps. So first off, butter both sides of the bread slices. Place cheese on one side, and ham on the other. What some recipes I noticed seem to do at this point is add a slice in between the cheese and ham (but this recipe does not). Firmly close the breads together and tie with kitchen twine (to keep things in tact). Heat up a skillet to moderate heat and melt half of the balance of remaining butter. Once it has melted and is bubbling a bit (careful not to burn), add the Croque Monsieur. The recipe tells you to cook each side for 4 min each. Maybe because I don't have a gas stove, I couldn't make this happen without burning (and at the same time keeping the bread from going soggy), so basically with my electric ceramic stove, it took more like 2 minutes per side. In between flipping, add the remaining butter (spreading around evenly). Cook until nicely browned and serve immediately. As an option, you can spread dijon mustard on one of the inside slices of breads instead of butter which is equally delicious! I love it with gherkin pickles the most (it seems to pair well with the smokey taste of the gruyere). A grape is nice too! And for this grilled cheese, no dipping in ketchup! Try the dijon method if you miss a bit of tang. And that my friends is it! I'm a bit choked I didn't photograph it open with all the cheese melting down, but trust me, it is cheesy wheesy good! I think this would make a sweet Valentine's Day lunch for two (maybe cut the bread with a heart cookie cutter)? Bon Apetit!
Croque monsieur croissant
I know for many, January is all about cleansing and dieting, but that has never been my style. I guess I am lucky to have a pretty good metabolism which helps, but I have always been more of the belief to largely eat healthily and eat everything in moderation. You hopefully get that sense from the range of recipes I have shared.
To me, in most cases if your diet is fairly balanced, the chances are you'll be fine and it saves you having to worry about the number of calories in this or that and just enjoy life and your food.
Of course I am saying that as a preface to something that is one of those slight indulgences - this croque monsieur croissant isn't going to win any prizes as a healthy breakfast/brunch or lunch, but boy is it good now and then.
What is a croque monsieur?
If you've not come across croque monsieur before then basically it's a contender for the best grilled ham and cheese sandwich there is. If you're wondering why I have gone so far as to claim that, well take a look. And then let me tell you it's down to great ham, some flavorful cheese and béchamel sauce plus a little mustard coming together to create oozing deliciousness.
I first came across them when I was relatively young on vacation/holiday in France, and then somehow forgot them until quite recently. How, I'll never know, but now I have re-discovered them they are one I'll indulge in now and then.
Traditionally croque monsieur is made on fairly plain sandwich bread but here I've put it on a croissant as they do at a cafe not too far from us and it's one I had to try myself at home as it was a great combination a marriage of two fantastic French delights.
I did debate about trying to make my own croissants, but I'm afraid time, and a cold, haven't really allowed for that recently so I have gone with ready-made. But for this, that's not such a big deal as everything else is what makes this truly special.
Tips for toasting croissants
One thing to note about toasting croissants, in case you haven't done so before, is they first go soft and then crisp up, I think due to the amount of butter in there.
If you don't toast them before you put the topping on, they'll just soften rather than be crisp - it's still tasty but just be aware if you think it will stay as crisp as it is cold, it probably won't.
You can crisp them by pre-broiling/grilling but beware that the line between toasted and burnt is very fine with croissants so keep a close eye on them.
Do you really need the béchamel sauce?
You may have read the bit about these including béchamel and thought why on earth you would go to the effort of making béchamel sauce for a ham and cheese sandwich how very French. Well, the truth is it just makes it so much better it really is worth it, and it's not that hard to make either.
Not only to you get lots of cheese flavor, it soft and creamy as well - there's no rubbery and chewy cheese going on here. It's somehow so much more comforting and indulgent-feeling, you can't help thinking it is such a good idea as soon as you take a bite.
Whether croque monsieur croissants are the best ham and cheese sandwiches or not I don't know, but I do know you should give it a try as they are so amazingly delicious.
What is a croque madame?
For those of you who do not know what a Croque Madame is a crunchy grilled chicken / ham and cheese sandwich topped with an egg sunny side up. If you’d rather exclude the egg in the recipe, you would basically have a Croque Monsieur.
My version of the recipe has some “American” flare to it… Instead of Gruyere Cheese, I decided that I would use some cheddar cheese. I know, shame on me, but I didn’t have any Gruyere, so I compromised. I made my own version of the recipe, and I have to say, it sure tasted good!