Thursday, April 23, 2009
Barefoot Bloggers: Croque Monsieur
Thank you Kathy for choosing this sinfully delicious dish! I don't normally eat cheese sauce. Not that I don't want to. It's just that my metabolism moves at a snail's pace. Nonetheless, I think I got a little carried away with my "slathering" of the cheese sauce and poured too much of it on those previously, semi-nutritional sandwiches. It was a total loss of self control. The whole time I was "slathering" I kept thinking, enough already! I know how the 'French Women Don't Get Fat' and believe me, they're not eating Croque Monsieur with an inch-thick layer of cheese sauce on top. Could you imagine Madame Guiliano pairing her leek soup with Croque Monsieur and then washing it down with a little Veuve Clicquot?
Despite my gluttony and guilt, my husband and I loved it! And why not? Who doesn't love hangover food? Better yet, my husband and I left for Paris on April 20th, so it was the perfect way for me to create a little pre-travel excitement.
Normally, my husband is not a big fan of my quasi-French Provincial cooking. (See my How Not To Make A Strawberry Tart post below.) We’ve had many debates about his loathing of thyme and my desire to use it in almost every dish. Our food debate looks something like this: I tell him we're having steak tonight and he envisions a steak and baked potato. What he is actually served, is steak au poivre (or some attempt at a sauce) with haricot vert and herb-roasted new potatoes. After dinner, I'll ask how he liked it and he'll reply, it was "okay." You can imagine how well that goes over.
Croque Monsieur however, is a different story. We can agree that the “slathering” of a ridiculously good cheese sauce over a cheese and ham sandwich, is paradise. I'm just hoping that enough "bar food" in Paris will convert him into a Francophile yet!
I decided to try the Contessa’s Croque Monsieur three different ways: (1) with Virginia Ham and Gruyère as stated in the recipe; (2) Prosciutto and Gruyère; and (3) Aged Cheddar, Virginia Ham and Granny Smith apple slices. My husband said he liked it all three ways. Personally, I thought the Contessa’s recipe was the best. In the second version, I found that substituting the ham for Prosciutto made it too salty and in the third version, the flavor of the apples was completely lost on the Aged Cheddar with the Gruyère cheese sauce. Note: I have made a delicious grilled-cheese sandwich using brie and apple slices so I thought I would try it here.
I paired the sandwiches with my own version of the strawberry-arugula salad posted by one of our Barefoot Blogger hostesses, Rebecca, on her blog Ezra Pound Cake. (The only healthy thing on the plate.) Thank you Rebecca, this salad is delicious and beautiful!
Adapted (only slightly) from Ina Garten’s Croque Monsieur
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups of hot milk
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
3 cups of Gruyère Cheese
½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 slices of French bread
4 thick slices of Virginia ham
Preheat oven to 400
Melt butter over low heat in small saucepan and add the flour slowly, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until sauce is thickened. (Could take 5-10 minutes.) Once thickened, take off heat and add, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, 1/2 cup of grated Gruyère, and the Parmesan and set aside.
Toast bread in oven for 5 minutes. Turn over and bake another 2 minutes, until toasted.
Assemble the sandwiches by adding a light amount of mustard to one slice of bread, add a slice of ham, and sprinkle Gruyère cheese. Top with another piece of toasted bread and put 2 (maybe 3 but that's pushing it) tablespoons of the cheese sauce over the tops of the sandwiches. Bake for 3-5 minutes. Turn on broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.