Croque Monsieur

I arrived in Boston last night from Paris, for a week of rest and relaxation chez mes parents.  I miss Paris already - the Haussmanian buildings, the kisses on both cheeks, the friendly greetings and goodbye's, and sitting outside a brasserie on a particulary sunny afternoon while sipping on a café and discussing everything and nothing in particular.  This morning I found myself craving a croque monsieur (which in english means literally a "mister crunch").  Essentially the French version of a grilled cheese, and a staple at French brasseries, it is a quick and fantastic dish that combines bread soaked in a bechamel-type sauce, smoked ham, and freshly grated gruyere cheese.  Every bite fills a deep craving in both the mind and body for a rich, silky, and warm nourishment. 

It's also a cinch to make - 20 minutes from start to finish!  But I know it's not the simplicity of  croque monsieur that incites its popularity - plain and simple, the croque monsieur is a delicious sandwich.  I hope you savor every bite as much as I did!

Croque Monsieur - serves 1

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup milk (preferably whole)
pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
2 slices white bread
2 thin slices smoked ham
2 ounces sliced gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter
3 tablespoons freshly-grated gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon fresh chopped chives

Preheat your broiler.
1.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and stir 1 minute, then gradually whisk in milk.  Add bay leaf and nutmeg, raise heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2.  Place one bread slice on a plate; top with 1 slice ham and slices of gruyere.
3.  Top with remaining bread; and brush sandwiches with melted butter. 
4.  Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add sandwich to skillet and cook for about 2 minutes each side, or until golden brown. 
5.  Transfer to a baking sheet, and top with remaining slice of ham.  Spoon bechamel sauce over it, then top with grated cheese.
6. Broil until cheese browns, about 2 minutes.  Top with chives, and enjoy!

Merci mes chers, bon soirée!


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