Food always has been a big part of each little moment in my life. A tea and pastry when catching up with a friend, a fancy dinner out in the city to celebrate a special occasion, a beautiful roasted chicken for a family meal. At the end of a long day, it would make sense that I have something to go-to for a little comfort. That meal for me is a traditional croquet monsieur – crispy bread with the perfect amount of melted cheese inside and to top it off a creamy nutty buttery béchamel sauce. After the first bite, everything already feels better!
Enough for 2 Croque Monsieurs.
- 5 tbsp of butter
- 1 tbsp of flour
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 pinch of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and stir constantly until golden and smooth (approx. 5 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture. Bring to a boil and stir constantly until smooth and thick (approximately 10 minutes). It should stick to your wooden spoon slightly.
Remove from the heat and season with salt (not too much as the sandwich is already salty) and nutmeg.
Assembling your Croque Monsieur:
- 4 slices of bread
- 1 tbsp of butter
- 4 slices of ham
- Sliced cheese of your choice (for a milder taste, go for swiss cheese and for a bolder taste, go for an English cheddar or smoked gouda)*
- ½ cup of grated cheese of your choice (feel free to mix and match for different flavours)*
- 5 cup of béchamel sauce
* In this Croque Monsieur, I chose cheddar for the sliced cheese and a smoked Gouda for the grated cheese.
Preheat your oven to broil and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Butter the inside of your bread slices. Add the ham and sliced cheese. Place your Croque Monsieurs in the oven to slightly toast the bread and melt the cheese (1-2 minutes on each side).
Take the tray out of the oven and drop a couple of spoonfuls of béchamel sauce on each the Croque Monsieurs covering them completely. Sprinkle the grated cheese and place back under the broiler until the sauce bubbles and becomes a beautiful golden brown (3-4 minutes).
A few twists to this French Tradition:
- Monsieur to Madame: If I want to go all out, I will fry up an egg sunny side up to place on top. This is called a Croque Madame. Let me tell you, there`s nothing better than mixing the sticky goodness of the egg yolk with the creamy béchamel. Yum!
- Fruit it up: There’s no rule saying you have to use plain “pain de mie”. To fancy it up, why not choose non-traditional bread. I’ve been known to using a pistachio and cranberry loaf and changing up the toppings by replacing the sliced cheese with brie and adding blackcurrant jam. I usually skip the béchamel and only broil grated cheese on top.
- Can you be any more french: Switch up the pain de mie for croissants. The buttery flakiness of the croissants combined with the steamy béchamel sauce is unreal!