Croque-Monsieur

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While French restaurant and country cooking have been thoroughly examined by American home cooks, somewhere between the two styles lies a branch of cuisine that has been almost entirely missed: France’s bar and cafe food. This is the realm of snacks like tartines and rillettes, salads and savory tarts, and one of most delicious of all: the croque-monsieur (literally translated as “crunch sir.”)

Good croque-monsieurs have a few things in common: a single layer of French ham and Gruyere pressed between two thin slices of bread. Some, like this one, are filled and topped with béchamel, which makes the whole thing creamier and better. The bread is brushed with butter, and the sandwich is cooked on a griddle or toasted under a broiler so that the cheese almost liquefies and the bits of ham and cheese hanging out the side fall limp and caramelize. It should be rich, substantial and salty, so you will reach for a glass of wine or beer between bites.

Ingredients


  • 5


    tablespoons butter

  • 1


    tablespoon flour




  • cup milk


  • Sea salt



  • Freshly grated nutmeg


  • 4


    1/3-inch-thick slices country bread (not sourdough or whole wheat)

  • 4


    thin slices French ham

  • 2


    thin slices Gruyere cheese

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Preparation

  1. Preheat a two-sided electric griddle on medium-high to high for about 20 minutes, or preheat the oven to 300 degrees and preheat a cast-iron skillet on top of the stove for about 5 minutes. Prepare a bechamel sauce: in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. When bubbles have subsided, add flour and whisk vigorously for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk until smooth. Bring to a boil, and cook until thick. Remove from heat, and season to taste with salt and nutmeg.
  2. Spread two slices of bread generously with sauce. Lay two slices of ham on top of each, and top each with a slice of cheese; ham and cheese should slightly overlap edges of bread. Top each with a slice of bread.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt remaining the 4 tablespoons butter. Brush the sandwiches on both sides with butter, making sure that the edges are well covered. If you’re using a griddle, place cheese side down, close the griddle and cook until the bread is toasted dark and cheese is leaking out and bubbling. If you’re using a skillet, place sandwiches cheese side down and cook on stove top until well browned, then turn and brown again. Transfer skillet to oven, and bake until heated through and cheese is bubbling. Serve hot.
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