It’s been almost one year since I studied abroad in Paris, France, and I dream of going back every day. So, here’s the thing. I often make French food to relive my experiences abroad, and croque monsieurs are my go-to dish. I ate too many of these in Paris, and it took me months before I could eat bread and cheese again after I returned to the States.
Please make this dish — fatten your ass with me and together, we can relive my memories from being abroad. Croque monsieurs (pronounced kinda like ‘CROAK MUH-see-UH’) are grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. They’re a Parisian classic, and they’re traditionally made with emmental or gruyere cheese. Basically, any Swiss cheese is your best bet, and opt for deli-sliced ham such as Virginia ham or Black Forest ham. These sandwiches have a luscious bechamel sauce (French white sauce) that elevate them to perfection. Yes, I know you can easily make ham and cheese sandwiches in, like, 3 minutes. But I’m politely asking you to set aside about 15 minutes of your time so you can gastronomically transport your ass to Paris. Pardon my French. It’s worth it.
Btdubs, here’s a pic of a croque madame I had in Paris at one of my favorite restaurants, which was literally called “Café de France.”
FYI, a croque madame is just a croque monsieur with a fried egg on top, and it’s equally delicious. Here’s a quick French lesson: croque is derived from the french verb “croquer” which means “to crunch,” and monsieur means “mister.” Madame is “Mrs.” Sorry, that’s all all I know about the dish’s name.
Here’s what you need!
White bread (note: don’t go whole wheat on me, that’d be weird), shredded Swiss cheese, black forest ham (or any ham you enjoy), dijon mustard, milk, butter, flour, pepper, salt, and parmesan cheese(optional).
Let’s be fancy. Cut off the crusts of each bread slice. I got 4 slices to make 2 sandwiches.
Like so. Nice. Discard the crust. Or feed them to the birdies.
In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Why does it look white like that, you ask? Well, that’s the milk solids in the butter, and it’s separating from the butter fat and water. TMI? Okay, moving on.
Dab some of that melted butter on one side of the bread slices. Oh yeah, place the bread slices on a small baking sheet lined with foil. We’re gonna use the small toaster oven for this. Don’t use all the butter!
Okay, toast that shiz. I want it to be nice and brown. This is crucial. We toast the bread before we assemble because the sandwiches would otherwise be soggy and gloppy with the white sauce.
Meanwhile, you should have 1 tablespoon of melted butter left in the saucepan. Add a little flour to it. We’re making a roux. (which reminds me, I need to go to a La Roux concert) A roux(pronounced RUE) is literally just flour and butter together like so. This is the base of our white sauce.
Whisk it around for a minute or so. Don’t burn it, please. Your heat should be medium-high-ish.
Add some milk to the saucepan and whisk, whisk, whisk.
Whisk it until no lumps remain in the sauce and it is thoroughly combined like this. It’ll thicken really well, and it takes about 1 to 2 minutes or so. Remove from heat when the sauce is thick like this. Dang, that looks très elegant.
Okay, this is optional. Add some parmesan cheese. It’s got a snappy zingy flavor. Yes…I’m adding an Italian cheese to this oh-so French dish. Don’t hate. You won’t regret it.
This is not optional. I need you to add some Swiss cheese to the sauce. We’re making a cheese sauce, afterall, and it’s gotta be Swiss.
Add some freshly ground black pepper, too! Stir the sauce, off the heat, until the cheeses are melted and the sauce is gooey. You can add some salt and just a pinch of nutmeg if you want it to be special. Set aside.
Holy crud, that’s a good color. 4-5 minutes in the toaster oven should produce this color.
Okay, flip the 4 bread slices over. What do you see? You will see naked white bread that isn’t too toasted. That’s okay, we’ll slather some dijon mustard on the naked sides of each slice. Grey Poupon, anybody?
For now, set aside two bread slices that have been schmeared with mustard. On the other two bread slices, layer 1-2 slices of ham on top of the dijon mustard…
And sprinkle on some shredded Swiss cheese on the ham. Back in the toaster oven it goes for a few minutes until melty. Use the broiler setting, if you want. It’s like an open-faced sandwich right now.
Okay, almost there. Now top the sandwiches off with the other bread slice with mustard schmeared on them. Place the toasted side facing UP, ya hear?
On top of the crusty sandwich top, spread all that cheesy bechamel sauce evenly. Holy moly.
And just some more shredded cheese will do…
Hey, girl, heyyy. I never promised a low-fat dish here.
Back in the toaster. For a third time. You can use the broiler for this.
“Seriously, Daisy Bun? WTF.”
Oh, honey, it’s so worth it. Toast the sandwiches until the tops are golden brown and dangerously cheesey.
Toaster Oven Croque Monsieur (French ham and cheese sandwich)
Total time: 18 minutes
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 13 min
Yield: 2 sandwiches
4 slices of white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk (or 2% milk)
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese (optional)
3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
4 slices ham (recommended: Black Forest or Virginia ham)
Using a knife, remove the crust around each bread slice. Place bread slices on a small baking sheet that has been lined with foil.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Remove saucepan from heat. Using the back of a spoon, dab the top facing side of each bread slice evenly with a total of 1 tablespoon melted butter. Toast the bread slices in a toaster oven for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and crisp.
Place the saucepan with remaining 1 tablespoon of melted butter over medium-high heat again. Add flour and whisk for about 30 seconds until butter and flour come together and form paste. Add milk and whisk for about 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce is lightly bubbling, no lumps remain and the sauce has a thick consistency. Remove from heat. Add Parmesan cheese, about 1 tablespoon of shredded Swiss cheese, black pepper, and salt. Stir together until cheeses are melted. Adjust for seasoning, if necessary, and set aside.
To assemble sandwiches: Flip the toasted bread slices over, and on the untoasted sides, spread dijon mustard evenly over bread. Set two bread slices aside and keep two bread slices on the baking sheet. On top of two bread slices with mustard, neatly lay 2 slices of ham. Evenly sprinkle 1/4 cup of Swiss cheese over ham for each sandwich. Toast these two slices for about 3 minutes (in the broiler or at 375 degrees F) until the cheese has just begun to melt. Remove from oven.
Top the two sandwiches off with the other bread slices that have mustard on them. Make sure the toasted, browned sides of the bread slices are facing up on the outside. Using a spoon, evenly divide the white sauce over the toasted tops of the sandwiches. Sprinkle remaining Swiss cheese over top (about 1 tablespoon of Swiss cheese on top of each sandwich). Return to toaster oven and toast for about 5 minutes, just until sandwiches and cheese look golden brown and completely melted. Serve immediately.