It was the summer of 1986, a most memorable summer indeed. My family and I moved to London, England for a year; however, our new home would not be available until later that fall. So, we decided to spend the summer in France.
We spent two glorious weeks in Paris and almost two months in the charming and historic city of Vichy. It was then that I became a Francophile. With a plethora of delectable choices that you can easily find in any café that you visit, the can’t-be-missed, default dish is the Croque Monsieur sandwich. Here’s my version of a Parisian café classic.
Le Croque Monsieur Sandwich
Also known as the gentleman’s sandwich (pan-toasted ham and Swiss cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce and gruyere cheese au gratin topping, finished off in a quick high broil)
Pairing: Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages
This dish will serve 4. Laissez-nous cuisiner! Let’s get cooking!
Ingredients for the sandwich:
- 8 slices of bread (preferably an artisanal or country style bread)
- 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
- 20-24 slices of ham, thinly sliced (country, tavern, or sweet ham)
- 8 slices of aged Swiss cheese
- 2 cups of shredded gruyere cheese
Ingredients for 1 cup of béchamel sauce:
- 1 & 1/4 cup of milk (heated)
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
- Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit. Be careful not to let it brown (approx 2 minutes).
- Add the hot milk, continuing to stir (the sauce will begin to thicken). Bring it to a boil.
- Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper.*
- Preheat the broiler to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter to a very large pan over medium-low heat until melted.
- Add 4 slices of bread to the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until toasted (lightly browned).
- Flip the bread over to cook on the other side. On two of the pieces of toasted bread add 1 tablespoon of mustard to each spreading it evenly around to cover its surface.
- Add 5-6 slices of ham to the top of the toast with mustard, add 2 slices of Swiss cheese and then evenly spread (layered) on 2 to 3 tablespoons of béchamel sauce, ¼ cup shredded cheese, a slice of toasted bread, 3-4 tablespoons of béchamel, and ¼ cup of shredded gruyere cheese.
- Place under the broiler on high heat for 3 to 4 minutes (until the cheese is melted and browned). Repeat the process to make the other 2 sandwiches.
Note: This sandwich is meant to be eaten as soon as it comes out of the broiler.
*Leftover béchamel sauce can be used to make potatoes au gratin, lasagna Bolognese, and even gravy.
Serve it up!
- Slice the sandwich (garnish optionally with chopped parsley) and serve immediately.
- Since the sandwich will be piping hot, it is perfectly acceptable to eat it with fork and knives (you can finish it off by hand once it cools off).
A second note: La Croque Madame Sandwich is essentially the same sandwich but with a fried egg on top.
As you can see, I paired this dish with Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages (available at most grocery and liquor stores $11-16). For this type of dish, you certainly want a refreshingly young, mild French wine like a Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, perhaps even a Côtes du Rhône.
Since I live in sunny Miami, I always place the wine in the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving. Bon appetit! A manger! And most importantly…À votre santé! (Cheers!) 🍷