Ham and cheese is a match made in heaven — particularly when they come together in this croque-monsieur recipe. A croque-monsieur is a French grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich that is topped with a creamy béchamel that adds a whole new layer of richness to classic ham and cheese.
You can find a croque-monsieur recipe in many French restaurants and, like hamburgers in American restaurants, they vary wildly in quality. A good croque-monsieur will walk the line between crispy and creamy, adding just enough béchamel to the top of the sandwich to keep it moist, while still maintaining the crispy crust of the French bread that gives the sandwich its structure.
One of the reasons that I enjoy making these sandwiches at home is that they will always turn out just the way you want them.
About this croque-monsieur recipe
When I am ready to make croque-monsieurs, I start by making a béchamel , a simple milk-based sauce thickened with a roux . I add cheese to mine, using the same cheese that is inside of the sandwich, to give it some extra body.
The sauce can be prepared in advance and reheated before you assemble the sandwiches if you want to make it a day ahead, or it can be prepared just before you put the sandwiches together.
The sandwich itself consists of layers of ham and cheese between two slices of French bread. I've had excellent variations of the croque-monsieur recipe made with brioche bread, but I like the rustic feel and flavor of French bread in mine. A bit of mustard — I recommend a whole grain French mustard — in the sandwich contrasts nicely with the salty ham.
Once assembled, the béchamel sauce is ladled over the top of the sandwich and the whole thing is baked in the oven. The resulting croque-monsieur is creamy, crispy, savory and downright addictive.
For the béchamel
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1½ cups milk
- 1/3 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
For the sandwiches:
- 8 slices French bread
- 3-4 tablespoons mustard
- Approximately 8 ounces ham, sliced
- 1½ cups shredded Gruyère cheese
Prepare a roux . Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add in flour all at once, then cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. When the mixture begins to brown, pour in milk and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens, 3-4 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup Gruyère cheese until melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread mustard on half of the bread slices, then arrange slices mustard-side up on a baking sheet. If desired, place bread slices on a metal rack positioned over the baking sheet.
Layer slices of ham on each piece of bread, on top of the mustard.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on top of the ham.
Place remaining bread slices on top of the ham and cheese layers to complete the sandwiches.
Spoon about ½ cup of béchamel sauce on top of each sandwich. Sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons additional shredded cheese.
Bake sandwiches for 15-18 minutes until the béchamel is golden brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.
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