It's French, in case you didn't know. The Croque-Monsieur is a hot ham and cheese sandwich, and a classic French food served at most bars and cafes. It is typically served on white bread with a Gruyere cheese. The more intricate versions are also coated in a Bechamel or Mornay sauce. The Croque-Madame is a variation of this recipe, and is topped with a poached or fried egg. This would be perfect to serve for brunch.
Bechamel sauce is a white sauce and is known as the "mother sauce" in French cuisine. This is because it serves as a base to many other sauces. Adding cheese to a Bechamel sauce makes it a Mornay sauce.
I wanted to do a classic French recipe, and until I try the Ratatouille, I figured this was a much
easier safer way to go. Of course, I needed to use what I had in my kitchen, so I made just a couple of small changes. Instead of using white bread, I used sourdough. I had a hard time finding Gruyere cheese anywhere near me. Gruyere cheese is considered ideal for baking because it is flavorful, yet not overpowering. Plus, it melts nicely. Gruyere is part of the Swiss cheese family so if you cannot find Gruyere at your local supermarket, I would go with a good Swiss cheese instead. Which is what I did. I also definitely wanted to use a Bechamel sauce with it, although mine is more of a Mornay sauce because I added cheese to mine. I remember these sauces being one of the first things I had to make while in culinary school. So it was nice to go back and do it again...this time without all of the pressure!
Before it went in the oven...
After it was done...
Croque Monsieur ou Madame
Prep: 15 min. ~ Cook: 10 min. ~ Total: 25 min. ~ Serves: 4
For Bechamel sauce:
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp flour
1/3 cup Gruyere cheese
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and white pepper to taste
8 slices white bread
3 cups grated Gruyere cheese
Melt butter in saucepan, making sure not to burn the butter. If butter is brown, it has burned and it's best to just start over because the taste will ruin your dish. Add flour in and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes pasty. Let cook gently for about 3 minutes.
Add milk and stir. If mixture starts to become lumpy, use a whisk. Stir constantly until mixture thickens. Stir in cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove from heat when mixture is thick.
Spread the Bechamel on one side of bread. Set the ham on top and sprinkle the cheese over the ham. Add your second slice of bread and coat the top with the Bechamel sauce. Sprinkle on more cheese. Broil for about 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. If you are making a Croque Madame, then fry or poach your egg while sandwich is broiling. Place egg on top of sandwich when it is done.