One of the responsibilities I have at the 3-star restaurant I cook at is to help make our staff lunch and dinners. We work from 8AM to 11PM with a two hour break in the middle and we are fed two meals a day to keep us going.
This last week our dinners have been revolting (from a preparation and eating standpoint) with French delicacies of Tete de Veau (head of veal) and Tongue, but last night was yummy. We made Croque Monsieurs for the whole staff and they were gobbled up faster than...well faster than the head cheese...
What is a Croque Monsieur? It is simply a ham and guyere cheese sandwich with a little béchamel sauce spread inbetween and on top for added creaminess. I know that many people are frightened by the idea of making béchamel because it is one of the quintessential French white mother sauces, but it's easy and takes minutes. And you can make it the day before and refrigerate it.
Once you make a roux (flour and butter mixture that thickens the sauce) add milk a little salt, pepper and nutmeg et Voila! C'est facile, non? For recipe click on "Continue reading Food for the Masses" at the bottom of the post.
The origin of the name Croque Monsieur, is uncertain but the first part derives from the verb croquer (to crunch or to munch). Its first recorded appearance on a Parisian café menu was in 1910. It originated in France as a fast-food snack served in cafés. If you top it with a fried egg the dish is known as a croque madame.
Loaf of Pain de Mie or thick white bread sliced
Gruyere shredded cheese
2 Tablespoons / 30 g unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons / 30 g all-purpose flour
1 cup / 250ml milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Bay Leaf
1. Make Béchamel sauce by melting butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour once the butter is foamy and cook until just golden stirring occasionally. The starch in the flour needs to cook but not overcook so be careful not to burn it.
2. Pour in half the milk and stir vigorously until smooth, then add remaining milk. Add bay leaf and season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Reduce heat to low and cook gently for another 5 minutes.
3. Spread a layer of béchamel sauce on thick white bread and top with a sprinkle of gruyere. Add 1- 2 ham slices and cover with a sprinkle of gruyere and another layer of bread.
4. On top of sandwich spread another layer of béchamel and more cheese. Bake in a hot oven (400˚F / 200˚ C) for 3 minutes until cheese is melted.
5. For a variation try a Croque Madame with a fried egg on top of the sandwich.