Grilled cheese sandwiches! That’s all these sandwiches are. Fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. They’re French, so of course they’re a bit pretentious, but don’t hold that against them. Like their American counterpart, they can transport you to another world. You didn’t know food could do that? What have you been eating all your life, rice cakes?
As I contemplated what I would make for my third and final installment for this week’s comfort food recipes, I thought about what I loved as a kid. More desserts came to mind, but then I remembered the most delicious and my favorite dishes are so simple like a BLT or grilled cheese sandwich. I couldn’t post a recipe about just any grilled cheese sandwich though. Everyone knows how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, right? So I thought back to what started this week’s recipes of comfort food, a lazy Sunday. To me weekend mornings, especially Sunday mornings, equal BRUNCH!!!! Like a lightbulb over my head the Croque Monsieur flashed in my memory.
I promise this blog is not going to be like the one that inspired that movie “Julie & Julia”, but again I turned to Martha Stewart Living Annual Recipes 2003. A Croque Monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich usually made with Gruyère cheese and covered with a bechamel sauce (a white sauce made with butter, flour and milk). The name literally means Mr. Crunch and Mr.Crunch’s wife (?) is Croque Madame. That sandwich is usually made with chicken and topped with a fried egg. I first saw these recipes in the cookbook and the photographs alone made me want to make the sandwiches. Yeah, they’re decadent, but so delicious you won’t regret it. I think they’re perfect for a Sunday brunch, and hope you will try to make one or both of the sandwiches.
A Note: If you can’t find Gruyère, another Swiss Cheese can be substituted, even the Swiss Cheese produced here in North America works well with the sandwich. Any cheese that you like and melts well can be used. I used Gouda for the Croque Madame and I think my eyes crossed when I took a bite. Oh, and forewarned is forearmed- these are fork and knife sandwiches, unless you’re home alone with nary a soul to judge you and a stack of napkins.
Makes 4 Sandwiches
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for bread room temperature
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 8 thick slices rustic French or firm white sandwich bread
- 12 thin slices of ham
- 1/3 pound Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced, plus 1 cup freshly grated (about 2 ounces)
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard or whole grain mustard
- Make bechamel sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until just starting to bubble. Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth but not browned, about 3 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add milk; continue whisking until mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and add salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and black pepper. Transfer to a bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface of sauce, and st aside.
- Heat broiler. Heat a griddle or large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Smear one side of bread slices with mustard. Layer ham and cheese over 4 bread slices; top with remaining slices, pressing gently to adhere. Generously butter outer sides of each sandwich, spreading it to the edges.
- Place sandwiches on griddle or in skillet. Cook until golden brown and cheese has melted, 3 to 4 minutes per side, turning once. Transfer to work surface; divide bechamel sauce over tops. Sprinkle with grated cheese.
- Transfer to broiler ( in the cast-iron skillet or on a baking sheet), and cook until topping is melted and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.