One of the most popular sandwich combinations in the world is ham and cheese. For good reason, they go deliciously together. It is a sandwich you will find, in some form, in a goodly portion of places around the world. In France, the Croque Monsieur raises the humble ham and cheese to heady heights.
The Croque Monsieur
The Croque Monsieur is France’s most popular sandwich and a true French classic. And because it is French, it is of course not as simple as putting a slice of ham and cheese between two pieces of bread. (Though the simpler ham and cheese sandwich is generally available from your local Boulangerie / bakery.)
I have eaten the odd Croque Monsieur in the odd café. And it is delicious. It’s quite the staple at bistros for lunch and/or dinner. But out of curiosity, I recently watched this video from Chef Jean-Pierre (below) on how to make this French classic.
The French Way
I honestly had no idea what went into this humble, yet not as it turns out so humble, sandwich. It’s one of those, when you realise what goes in to its making, you can quite comfortably decide it is worth eating out for. Even if ‘just’ a sandwich.
Sure there is the bread (not a baguette), the ham, and the cheese. Except, this is France. So it can’t just be a couple slices of your basic cheese. Nope. It has to be Gruyere. (In a pinch,, a *good* Swiss cheese can be substituted.) Also Parmesan. And… Brie. Although the last one is optional.
Vive la Différence
But that is not all. What truly separates the Croque Monsieur is the Mornay sauce. And this is where the time and fiddly bit come in. And what raises it way above the simple ham and cheese. A Mornay sauce starts with a roux (butter and flour), followed by quite a bit of milk. Then the cheeses are added. Some cream. And finally egg yolks.
If you have ever enjoyed eggs benedict (with ham), well just imagine it in a sandwich form and you are getting close to what goes into the making and taste of a Croque Monsieur. Yup, super rich, delicious, and absolutely filling.
The Croque Madame
Oh, and yes there is a Croque Madame, too. You make the Croque Monsieur, and add a fried egg on top at the end.
If the Croque Monsieur has inspired you to try your hand in the kitchen, we have a selection of other cookery tales to tell, with recipes included, in our Food Findings.
And if you would like to give a flavour of France to your own kitchen, in a more permanent way, check out some dining and serving ideas from Our Shop:
(Simply click on an image to see more.)