Thursday, April 24, 2014

April is Grilled Cheese Month—Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame, and the Monte Cristo

Apparently I was not informed that April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Who makes these foodie days up? I could research it and write a post about it, or I can make a grilled cheese sandwich. Then I saw an episode of Hell's Kitchen and realized what had to be done.
Croque Monsieur

If you were to go on a pub crawl in France, it is highly probable that sooner or later you’re going to see “Croque Monsieur” or “Croque Madame” on some bistro snack menu. In France the mere thought of these sandwiches would probably trigger the comfort food alarm in some French men and women. The Croque Monsieur is not and should not be confused with the American Monte Cristo sandwich.

You knew it had to have butter in it. Didn't you?
Here in America, what we call a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, is elevated to a higher place and called a “Croque Monsieur” in France. Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame are definitely trending now. I had only heard about these sandwiches  before. Now all of a sudden it seems that I'm hearing about them or seeing them everywhere.  
You're going to need to make a roux
Depending on where you live in America, you might feel the same way about a grilled cheese, corned beef or pastrami on rye, po’ boy, Italian beef or sausage, grinder, submarine, cheese-steak, Cuban, or gyros.
You're going to need a little milk to thicken things up a bit.
Sorry ladies, men first! So just what is a “Croque Monsieur” anyway? It is a grilled ham and cheese (Emmental or Gruyère) sandwich smothered in a cheesy béchamel sauce.
That looks about right
Cut the crust off of some hearty white bread
According to Wikipedia, the Croque Monsieur originated in French cafés and bars as a quick snack. A Croque Madame is the same sandwich but with the addition of a poached or fried egg on top.  According to some people, the addition of the egg resembles a woman’s hat. Jacques Pepin says that a Croque Madame is made with chicken rather than ham.
Generously spread melted butter on bread

If you’ve ever seen the movie “It’s Complicated” with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin, there are two parts of the movie that I found particularly of interest. Most people follow the storyline of the movie.  I do that too, but Meryl’s character had her own bakery, with a sheeter for rolling out and laminating the dough to make croissants. I want one of those!
Lightly toast the bread in the oven on both sides

To see the YouTube clip “Croissant Heaven” follow this link But the thing that really took me off the storyline momentarily was Alec Baldwin going crazy over Meryl’s unfinished Croque Monsieur sandwich.  While I did continue with the movie, the thing that stuck in my mind was the Croque Monsieur. I left the movie wondering what a Croque Monsieur was
Spread the béchamel sauce on the bottom slice of bread
To see the YouTube clip “OMG” go to
Spread a layer of shredded cheese on top of the béchamel sauce

As I said before, I'm not a chef and I never heard about Croque Monsieur, or Croque Madam. If I'm right about the difference between the Monsieur, and the Croque Madam, in a very recent episode of Hell’s Kitchen, Michelin Star Chef Gordon Ramsay called a “Croque Madame” a “Croque Monsieur.” You Donkey!  Get out! The addition of a fried egg (hat) on top of a Croque Monsieur makes it a Croque Madam. Watch the clip on YouTube:

A layer of Black Forest ham is next
échamel sauce)
2 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
to taste, salt
to taste, pepper
pinch, nutmeg
TIP: I have added 1 tablespoon more butter to this sauce so the sauce is not totally thick. Once you add cheese to a Bechamel sauce, one of the five Mother sauces (white sauce) it becomes a Mornay sauce.
Another layer of cheese. I didn't say this was healthy.

DIRECTIONS: (Bechamel Sauce)
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth and bubbly. Continue cooking over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk until smooth and creamy but not too thick. Slowly stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano and whisk until the cheese is melted. Whisk in the Dijon mustard until smooth.
Add sauce to the bottom side of the top

If the sauce is too thick, add more milk. Finally, remove the saucepan from the heat, season with salt, cracked black pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.  Allow the sauce to cool. The sauce should be the consistency of mayonnaise and be spreadable.
Place sauced side down on the top.
8 slices rustic Italian bread, crust removed
4 tbsp. butter, melted for basting the bread
1-1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
12 slices Black Forest ham, thin sliced
NOTE: I like Breadsmith Rustic Italian Bread, although any hearty bread will do.
Spread more sauce on top
Broil 550°F.

Remove the crust from the bread so the bread is crustless and identical in size. Melt the butter and brush both sides of the bread slices lightly. Place the buttered bread slices on a baking sheet and place on the center rack of the oven. Do not walk away! When the first side of the bread is lightly toasted, turn the slices over and toast the other side. Do not walk away! Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the bread slices to cool.
A generous amount of sauce is needed

To assemble the sandwiches, lightly spread a layer of the cooled Mornay sauce on each of four toasted bread slices. Divide the Gruyère cheese into 12 equal portions. Take the cheese from four portions and spread it evenly on top of the four sauced bread slices. (Think of the sauce as the “something” to hold the cheese.)
More cheese and fresh horses for my men

The next step is to evenly distribute the ham (3 thin slices) on top of the first layer of cheese. Place another portion of cheese on top of the ham. Take the final toast slices and spread them with a layer of sauce on one side. Turn the sauced toast side on top of the shredded cheese. Using the palm of your hand, press down on the sandwiches so they stick together and are flattened slightly.
Remove from broiler when bubbly and golden

Spread a layer of the Morney sauce on top of each sandwich and spread the remaining shredded cheese on top of that. Place the baking sheet under the broiler (center rack) until the cheese is bubbling and turning golden brown. Remove, cut, and serve.
Serve Croque Monsieur

Perhaps you prefer a Croque Madame. To change a Croque Monsieur into a Croque Madame you simply place a poached or fried egg (hat) on top of the Croque Monsieur.

© TMelle 2014

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