It's no secret that I'm an avid fan of French culture. (I'm sure anyone who follows our Twitter or Instagram has been privy to me babbling on and on about my French class.) So, of course I would need to post a French recipe here!
During the New Year holiday, I decided that it would be much fun to make my American version of the classic Croque Monsieur [aka Mr. Crunchy] and the Croque Madame [the Mrs.]. Croque Monsieur is the traditional French ham sandwich that one would eat in France, and the Croque Madame is its female counterpart: the same sandwich, but adorned with a fried or poached egg.
This recipe was no small feat, but if you're willing and ready, and LOVE cheese & butter: then it's for you. See below!
1. 2-3 slices of hormone-free, locally farmed ham per sandwich
2. 2 tablespoons butter
3. a block of Gruyére or Sharp White Cheddar cheese (about 1 1/2 cups grated)
4. 2 slices of French or Italian loaf per sandwich
5. 1 pear or apple (optional)
6. At least 2 ounces of goat cheese (optional)
7. 2 tablespoons white flour
8. a pinch of salt
9. 1 free range, organic egg (optional--for Madame)
10. 1/4 cup packed Parmesan cheese, grated
11. 1 1/2 cup milk
Start by preheating your oven to 400°. Lay your slices of bread out on a small oven pan and butter them lightly on each side. Put these to the side.
The tricky part comes in the beginning: making the béchamel sauce. Melt your butter in a small saucepan on a low heat (you don't want to burn it!) until it starts to bubble and simmer. Add the flour and stir until smooth. This usually takes about two minutes. Slowly add your milk and and whisk until thick (see photo). Add a pinch of salt and a shake or two of pepper or nutmeg if you'd like. Remove from the heat and stir in Parmesan. Feel free to add more flour or Parmesan (even some grated Gruéyere if the consistency isn't quite right). Set this aside, covered.
After the béchamel sauce is complete, place your buttered bread into the oven to toast--a few minutes on each side. Keep a close eye on it so it's not burned.
While they are toasting, cut very thin slices of the pear on a mandolin or with a paring knife. Set to the side.
Remove the slices of bread from the oven and spread (lightly) the goat cheese on each interior side. The French used Dijon mustard, but I'm not a fan of mustard, so goat cheese it is! Add the ham slices, one or two slices of the fruit, and 1/2 to one cup of the grated Guyére or Cheddar. Place the other half of the bread on top to complete the sandwich.
Spoon the béchamel sauce on top of the sandwich (plus some sprinkles of more cheese if you would like) and place in the oven for 5 minutes. Then, broil the sandwiches for about 3 more minutes.
Note: if you are making the Croque Madame, now is the time to fry or poach your egg. When the sandwich comes out of the oven, place the egg on the top with some truffle salt or pepper, and voila! Bon appetit!