hen it comes to brunch, that laid-back weekend meal, what could be better than homemade croque monsieur – or his companion, the eggy croque madame? The Parisian bistro classic – beloved by brunchers worldwide - is essentially a grilled cheese sandwich with the addition of ham and a blanket of creamy béchamel sauce with melted cheese on top, and a very French name. With only a few simple ingredients it is easy to make a great version at home, and when made with D’Artagnan products, your meal will rival the top brunch hot spots in town.
Making Croque Monsieur
Croque means “crunchy” in French, and so this sandwich is a “crunchy mister.” The origin of the name is argued, but all signs point to Le Bel Age café in Paris around 1910, with a literary reference in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, circa 1918.
To make the simple croque monsieur good quality ingredients are key. Choose slices of freshly-baked French bread (even brioche), Gruyère, Emmental, or Comté cheese, and our applewood smoked ham – or the more traditional unsmoked Berkshire bistro ham (thinly sliced).
Follow these 4 easy steps to achieve brunch perfection.
1. First, toast the bread slices, and this step is crucial in providing that desired texture. Spread the bread with a little Dijon mustard and place ham and cheese slices between the bread slices. Lay the sandwiches on a sheet tray and pre-heat your broiler.
2. Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce for the top of the sandwiches. Start by making a basic béchamel, or a thickened milk sauce. Do this by melting 2 tablespoons of butter (we use black truffle butter, bien sur) in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir to combine, then stir for 2 minutes to cook out any taste of flour. Slowly add 1 cup of milk, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Let the mixture come to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes, or until thickened.
3. Turn this béchamel sauce into a cheese sauce by adding 1 cup of grated Gruyère cheese. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and incorporated. Season the sauce to taste with salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. The sauce will be more than enough for two sandwiches.
4. Ladle the finished cheese sauce on top of the sandwiches, covering the top of the bread entirely. Place the sandwiches under the broiler, about 4 inches from the heating element, and cook until the sauce is bubbly and golden brown and the cheese between the bread is melted. Serve immediately with a simple green salad.
What Makes a Croque M. into a Mme.?
a. The bread must be made by a female baker
b. It can multitask – not just a sandwich, but also a meal
c. The fried egg on top resembles hats worn by Parisian women in the early 1900s
It's easy to transform the crunchy mister to an elegant croque madame by adding a fried egg - keep the yolk runny - on top of the croque monsieur. The croque madame is a perfect brunch item, especially with a glass of champagne and fresh fruit. Whether drawn most to monsieur or madame, we all crave the cheesy, crunchy bite that defines the French bistro classic – le croque is pure comfort.