I would like to offer a special thanks to Kathy of All Food Considered for choosing Croque Monsieur for the second Barefoot Contessa recipe this month. My passion for French food is long standing, but I had never made this decadent sandwich before. Perhaps it is because it is so decadent; bread, ham, cheese, white sauce and more cheese. I hate to admit it but I do not have a natural affinity for cheese. There was a time when I would not touch the stuff, but over the years I have allowed certain cheeses to prove their goodness to me. Gruyere is one of those cheeses. I think I learned to like it during the fondue era of the 70’s. Parmesan is another favorite and I liberally slather pizzas with it. So Croque Monsieur appealed to me on all levels and it did not disappoint.
The only change I made to the recipe was the bread. Ina uses Pepperidge Farm white bread and although I like it, I like my Bread Machine Rosemary Focaccia better. I will include that recipe also. The recipe came from a Better Homes and Gardens Bread Machine cookbook.
3/4 cup water
2 Tbls olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 Tbls sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast
3 Tbls olive oil
2 to 3 Tbls chopped rosemary
Course salt to taste
Add first six ingredients in the order given to the bread machine. Process on the dough setting. Remove dough from bread machine. Cover and let rest for ten minutes. Grease a 12″ round pizza pan. Roll or pat dough into pan. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Make depressions in dough with fingertips. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary and coarse salt. Bake 15 to 18 minutes.
CROQUE MONSIEUR ( I made half of the recipe )
2 Tbls unsalted butter
3 Tbls all purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 tsp kosher salt ( I omitted )
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.
To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot. Makes 8 sandwiches.