Croque Monsieurs are the French ultimate grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. I use nontraditional smoked Black Forest ham, Gruyère cheese that bubbles and melts and oozes, and a simple béchamel sauce spiked with hot Dijon mustard and heady nutmeg. Traditional Croque Monsieurs are best when served open-faced, and eaten with a fork and knife. The killer trick here is to have your baker slice your bread the wrong way–the long way–so you have giant bread slabs on which to pile are your scrumptious toppings. And people think it’s pretty cool.
- 1 large loaf unsliced white sandwich bread, sliced the wrong (long) way*
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 10 ounces grated Gruyère cheese, divided
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ pound Black Forest ham, sliced**
Preheat the broiler. Place the bread on 2 large baking sheets, 2 slices per sheet, and broil each slice of bread 1 minute on each side, to lightly toast. Set aside, and keep the broiler on.
Make the béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a medium saucepot over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour, and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, until bubbly and just turning golden. Whisk in the milk in a steady stream, and increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk continuously until the sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the Dijon mustard and 2 ounces of Gruyère. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Assemble the sandwiches. Keeping the toasted bread on their baking sheets, top each slice of bread with one quarter of the ham. Cover the ham with a healthy layer of béchamel, making sure the sauce reaches to the crust, or it will burn under the broiler. Then top with one quarter of the remaining cheese. Broil 4 to 6 minutes, until cheese is completely melted and bubbling and turning golden. Serve with cornichons, and eat with a fork and knife!
*Buy your bread at a bakery, and have them slice it the wrong way through their slicing machine for you.
**This recipe is less about the recipe, and more about how you like to make a sandwich. Depending on how big your bread is, or how much ham or cheese you like, you may prefer different amounts. Trust your instincts!
print this recipe