An authentic Croque Monsieur

Found all over France, the Croque Monsieur (Croak Mis-ew-er) is an amazing spin on what most of us know as a simple ham and cheese sandwich. The Croque is such a staple to French society that the government regulates the maximum price it can be sold for (to keep it affordable). You can find this traditional French dish at almost every French café, bistro, and brasserie known to man. The secret to making an amazing Croque Monsieur involves using quality ham, exceptional cheese, and superb bread; my favorite Croque Monsieur recipe is posted at the bottom this article.

What’s an AUTHENTIC Croque Monsieur?
Nowadays, there are so many different ways to make a Croque. Many people claim they have the “traditional” or “best-tasting” way to enjoy the sandwich, so it’s really a toss up on how you make your sandwich. I believe that with food, everybody looks for something different. An authentic Croque Monsieur has a think layer of cheese, or a broiled béchamel sauce over top (usually composed of Emmental or Gruyère). The ham can be found inside two buttered slices of French bread. Some people like their sandwiches fried in butter, others prefer them baked or grilled.

Did you know Croque Monsieur loosely translates to “Crunchy Mister”?

Several variations of this ham and cheese sandwich do exist. For example, the same Croque Monsieur with a poached (or fried) egg on top would be called a Croque Madame. A Croque Provençal consists of the classic Croque with tomatoes. Replaced the ham with smoked salmon and you’ve got yourself a Croque Norvégien. Use bleu d’Auvergne cheese and it’s automatically called a Croque Auvergnat. Lastly, a “Croque Mcdo” refers to the sandwich offered at select French Mcdonalds‘; I would recommend trying the real deal before succumbing to this knock-off.

A classic, traditional Croque Monsieur Recipe:
So it may seem like a lot of trouble to make a simple ham and cheese sandwich, but the Croque will surely satisfy if you take the time to do it right! If you want to fry these in the skillet first, then broil the béchamel sauce over top, I’ve provided alternative directions after the recipe. Also, depending on how many sandwiches you wish to make, you may need to modify this recipe:

Makes 4 Croque sandwiches; serving size is ONE Croque Monsieur, don’t let them tempt you!

Ingredients:
– 8 slices of choice bread (Authentic French or Italian varieties are preferred: you want a medium thickness)
– 12 ounces of quality ham
– 1 and 1/2 cups of grated Gruyère or Emmental Cheese (roughly 0.3 lbs)
– 1 and 1/2 cups of milk
– Dijon Mustard
– 2 Tbsp of butter
– 2 Tbsp of flour
– Pinch of salt, pepper, and/or ground nutmeg for taste (personal tastes are very variable)

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (~200 Celsius)

Béchamel Sauce

Step 2: You want to make the béchamel sauce: add the butter (2 Tbsp) to a small sauce pan at low heat. Once the butter has melted and begins to bubble (2-3 minutes), add the 2 Tbsp of flour – mix until smooth. Finally, slowly whisk in the milk and continue to stir until the sauce becomes thick. Remove from the heat. Stir in half a cup of your grated cheese plus the salt, pepper, and nutmeg if you so choose. Set aside.

Step 3: Place the bread (lightly buttered on both sides if you wish) into the oven and let it toast for several minutes. Depending on your preferences, pull them out when that ideal state has been achieved.

Assemble

Step 4: Time to assemble the sandwiches! Place several slices of ham onto the bread and evenly top all the sandwiches with the remaining cheese. Now select the other bread slice and spread the dijon mustard on the “inside” portion (the dijon is a necessary component!). Place the dijon slice on top of the “ham and cheese” slice.

Step 5: Top each croque monsieur with the béchamel sauce that you set aside. Place the sandwiches into the oven for 5 minutes. Then, turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 to 5 minutes – looking for bubbling, slightly browned cheese. Make sure you use a pan that can handle the broiler.

Step 6: Remove the sandwiches, let them cool to a reasonable level, and then enjoy!

Grilling Instructions:
To start your grilled sandwiches, skip step 1 and proceed to step 2 (making the sauce). Lightly butter your bread sides and then assemble the sandwiches according to step 4. Now, heat up a buttered (or PAM’ed) skillet to medium heat and grill both sides to your liking. Finally, top the sandwiches with the béchamel sauce and broil the sandwiches in the oven for 4-5 minutes – looking for bubbly, slightly browned cheese. Make sure you use a pan that can handle the broiler. Remove the sandwiches, let them cool to a reasonable level, and then enjoy!

Croque Monsieur 

Some people prefer to skip the béchamel sauce and just add a ton of cheese on top before broiling. In France, the cheese is typically on top of the Croque Monsieur, not inside of it.

Elise Bauer initially submitted this Croque Monsieur recipe, which you can find here. The lovely photos are provided by Helena Brigman (I photoshopped them a bit). There are many more recipes online, but this one has served me well and I suggest you give it a try.

So, there you have it! An authentic French Ham and Cheese sand…. ehem* Croque Monsieur. You can share any comments below (simply select anonymous user, no subscription is required).

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