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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Destination: Paris - Classic Croque Monsieur

Last week, the husband and I took a lovely trip to France. I have a real thing for this country - the people, the landscape, and of course the amazing food and wine. In just seven action-packed days, and with the help of our usual obsessive over-planning, we managed to really soak it all in. Here are a just a few highlights:


Beautiful Paris, Photo: NK
A day trip to Brittany and the Abbey of Mont St. Michel, Photo: NK
Three days in the countryside - Amboise, Loire Valley, Photo: NK


Between touring the City of Light and chateau and vineyard hopping the in gorgeous Loire Valley countryside, we enjoyed several very special meals. 

Crab, Scallop and Mango Tart in Amboise, Photo: NK
Amazing Oysters at Huitrerie Regis, Paris, Photo: NK
Decadent Roast Chicken in Pastry over Black Rice at Restaurant Mariette, Paris, NK
Profiteroles at the amazing Les Closeaux just outside of Amboise, Photo: NK


Clearly, France offered no shortage of culinary inspiration, so when we got home, I had the urge to try to make something really simple yet classically French. Croque Monsieur seemed like just the thing. 


Croque Monsieur is basically a toasted ham and cheese made all the more sinful by the addition of a creamy sauce and grated gruyere topping. Below, I've adapted Martha Stewart's recipe just a bit. The result was gooey, delicious, and decidedly not diet. Enjoy and bon appetit!


Classic Croque Monsieur
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 4 


Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
2 Cups of Whole Milk
1 Cup Grated Gruyere Cheese plus 8 Slices of Thinly Sliced Gruyere
Kosher Salt to Taste
Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Nutmeg
8 Slices Country Style White Bread - we used Arnold brand
6 Ounces French Bistro Ham Cold cuts or other cold cut Ham


Method:
Preheat the oven to 450 and set a rack in the middle and a rack near the broiler.
Toast the 4 Slices of Bread. Don't worry if they are extra crunchy. It will make for a nice texture later. Leave the oven on. 


Butter a baking sheet and set aside. 


Next, set two medium sauce pans on the stove. 


In one, melt Butter over medium-high heat. Gradually stir in the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture bubbles up. Continue whisking for about 3 minutes. The mixture will take on a golden peanut butter color. Turn off the heat and set aside. 


Butter and Flour Mixture, Photo: NK
In the other sauce pan, heat the Milk over medium heat. Once warmed, pour the hot milk into the first sauce pan, incorporating it with the butter and flour mixture slowly. Whisk briskly and continuously to prevent lumps from forming. Turn the burner back on medium and continue whisking. Allow mixture to come to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer two minutes more. Stir in Half a Cup of the Grated Gruyere, and add Salt to taste, Pepper to Taste, and a dash of Cayenne and Nutmeg. Remove from the heat and pour the cheesy sauce into a bowl to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. 

Next, lay 4 slices of Toast down on a work surface. 
Cover each slice with about a Quarter Cup of Cheese Sauce. 

Toasts with Cheese Sauce, Photo: NK
To assemble the sandwich, lay one slice of Gruyere on top of the sauce, followed by a slice to a slice and a half of Ham. Top Ham with another slice of Gruyere, and top each sandwich with the remaining slices of toast. Press lightly to close the sandwich. Pour another Quarter Cup of Sauce on top of each sandwich and sprinkle them all with the remaining Grated Gruyere.
Assembled Croque Monsieur ready to bake, Photo: NK
Place sandwiches on the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes until cooked through.

Turn on the broiler and finish sandwiches for another 2 to 3 minutes under the broiler until the tops become golden brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Voila! Finished Croque Monsieur, Photo: NK
Photo, NK

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