The French sure do love their baguettes, jambon, and fromage. During both of my trips to France, (one in high school, one in college), I accompanied the locals by enjoying many simple sandwiches comprised of crusty bread, salty ham, and creamy cheese wrapped in paper while walking the streets of Paris.
I also made sure to fit in a few sit-down lunches on outdoor cafe patios while people-watching. My favorite mid-day French meal to order was a Croque Monsieur; a fancier fork-and-knife version of the classic ham & cheese sandwich.
Making this decadent French sandwich at home is easy, and yields a delicious result.
Toasted bread, tangy mustard, sweet ham, rich Gruyère cheese, and a light béchamel sauce are all it takes to transform a boring ham & cheese sandwich into this divine Parisian lunch.
By using whole wheat bread, a moderate amount of cheese, and 1% milk for the béchamel, I’ve lightened this sandwich up quite a bit… without sacrificing the rich flavor of the original Croque Monsieur.
Using a fork and knife to eat the sandwich only adds to the decant experience. You could even add a green salad alongside the Croque Monsieur and call it dinner; but every once in a while I like treating myself to a special mid-day meal.
To make the sandwich even more special, you can add a poached or fried egg on top; thereby transforming a Croque Monsieur into a Croque Madame. Then you have a perfectly brunch-worthy entree!
Although I have no plans to visit France again in the near future, it’s comforting to know that at least I can bring a little Parisian flare to my table from time-to-time with this tasty Croque Monsieur.
see recipe on Key Ingredient
yield: 1 sandwich
- 2 slices lightly toasted whole wheat bread
- 2 tsp country Dijon mustard (or more/less, to taste)
- 4 thin slices Black Forest ham
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese, divided use
- 1/2 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup 1% low fat milk, preferably organic
- tiny pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Spread mustard onto one slice of toasted bread. Top with the ham and 3 Tbsp of the grated cheese.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Whisk in the flour for about 30 seconds. While continuing to whisk, pour in the milk and cook (whisking slowly but constantly) until thickened (coats the back of a spoon) and just starts to bubble, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining 1 Tbsp grated cheese until fully melted. Stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
- Spread about 1-2 Tbsp of the béchamel sauce over the remaining toasted slice of bread, and place face down onto the ham and cheese topped bread.
- Place sandwich on a baking sheet lined with foil and spoon the remaining béchamel sauce over the top.
- Bake for 5 minutes. Serve hot with a fork and knife.
To make a Croque Madame:
- Serve a Croque Monsieur topped with a poached or fried egg!