Croque Monsieur Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Years ago, a French friend of mine introduced me to Croque-Monsieur, the French version of a toasted ham and Swiss sandwich. I remember it being loaded with butter and cheese, and absolutely the most delicious sandwich in the world. My friend was somewhat addicted to these sandwiches, and after having one myself I could see why. Gruyère cheese and ham just belong together. According to About.com the word croque comes from the verb croquer or “to crunch”. So a Croque-Monsieur roughly translates to “Mister Crunchy”. The feminine version, a “Croque Madam”, includes a fried egg on top. This classic French bistro sandwich is a great way to use up leftover ham.

Croque Monsieur Ham and Cheese Sandwich Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 4 sandwiches.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • A pinch each of salt, freshly ground pepper, nutmeg, or more to taste
  • 6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups grated)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (packed)
  • 8 slices of French or Italian loaf bread
  • 12 ounces ham, sliced
  • Dijon mustard

Method

1 Preheat oven to 400°F.

2 Make the béchamel sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium/low heat until it just starts to bubble. Add the flour and cook, stirring until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously, cooking until thick. Remove from heat. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the Parmesan and 1/4 cup of the grated Gruyère. Set aside.

3 Lay out the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, a few minutes each side, until lightly toasted. For extra flavor you can spread some butter on the bread slices before you toast them if you want.

(Alternatively, you can assemble the sandwiches as follows in step four and grill them on a skillet, finishing them in the broiler with the bechamel sauce.)

4 Lightly brush half of the toasted slices with mustard. Add the ham slices and about 1 cup of the remaining Gruyère cheese. Top with the other toasted bread slices.

5 Spoon on the béchamel sauce to the tops of the sandwiches. Sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère cheese. Place on a broiling pan. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese topping is bubbly and lightly browned.

If you top this sandwich with a fried egg it becomes a Croque Madame.

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Adapted from several recipes, including one by Debra Weber of About.com and Ina Garten.

Links:

Croque-Monsieur: The Incriminating Ham Sandwich from the Paupered Chef
Pear and Brie Croque Monsieur by Oswego Tea
Feeding the Masses: Croque Monsieurs by Ms. Glaze's Pommes d'Amour

38 Comments

  1. Richard Leader

    I think what is key to this is good ham – I’ve had too many croque monsieur (what is the plural? croques monsieur?) with cheap plasticy ham. Good ham, good cheese, good bread, good bechamel…
    Your photo has got me hungry…

  2. Liz

    This sounds like a great winter lunch – and since we got snow here last night that should last the next few days, it still feels like winter. I will have to give this a try – thanks for all of the great ideas Elise!

  3. jonathan

    *speechless*

    Question…

    Is this on my diet?

    Must be strong…must be strong….must be…

  4. chefjustin

    You’re exactly right about the quality of the ham, Richard. I recommend a nice Rosemary flavored ham. Also, the bread is very important; try to find a nice Brioche, you’ll be glad you did.

    Bread with bechamel?!? That’s a bit over the top. I prefer to shred some Gruyere and toss it in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of heavy cream, some salt & pepper then pour that on top. It soaks through the center of the bread and makes it’s own sauce when it hits the mustard and butter inside the sandwich.

  5. lavonne

    Mr. & Mrs. Crunchy – I love it. The French know how to make everything sound so snooty.

  6. Peter

    When in Paris, you should have a Croque Monsieur, but no matter how hard you try pronounce it, it may take a couple trys before the waiter will understand your order!

  7. Nancy

    How can you not love a sandwich with ham and cheese. Once when I was in France I ordered a sandwiche jamobon et fromage in my terrible school girl French. They looked at me like I had lost my mind, which I suppose I had. They gave it to me anyway with a disgusted look on their face. A look the French have perfected. I suppose it’s a good thing I couldn’t remember that mustard in French is moutard. The next time I can just order a Croque Monsieur.

  8. Mike Drewery

    In answer to Richard Leader’s Question regarding
    the plural form for Monsieur the answer is Messieurs

  9. Bill

    Yes, I definitely love the ham and cheese sandwich. In fact, I grew up with them. Now that I’m older I’m always looking for a “twist” on the standard ham and cheese, so this one definitely looks like a winner to me…will make it as soon as I have time.

  10. Dennis Kercher

    Glad you’ve discovered this little comfort food. To take it to another notch, try this:
    Great Ciabatta or French Bread
    Smoked Salmon
    Cave Aged Gruyere, grated and sprinkeled
    Lemon Confit – see my comments at the end of your Preserved Lemons section
    Chives, diced and added to the cheese
    A great frying pan that you can use to make a most memorable grilled cheese with salmon and lemon (croque monsieur) and you will think that you have died and gone to heaven.

    Buon Appetito – Dennis Kercher (the Hidden Kitchen)

  11. Elise

    Hi Dennis – Oh my, that smoked salmon and gruyere with lemon sounds fabulous. That will be my next grilled cheese sandwich to try. Thanks for the recipe!

  12. Mar

    Thanks so much for posting this, I had all the ingredients on hand, and it was DELICIOUS! I think I am hooked.

  13. Anna

    Yum yum yum!

    I make croques monsieur (the plural is definitely croques monsieur, not messieurs..) often for my dear husband, but since I live in England, I make an English variant of it, with mature (or even extra mature) cheddar, and instead of the bechamel, I just put crème fraîche under the ham on both slices of bread. Ah, and of course, a must in my household, a bit of garlic!! Either dried flakes, or granules, sprinkled over the cheese on the top slice.

    In a lot of cafés and bistrots in France, the menu includes a ‘croques’ section, because it encompasses a whole range of sandwiches put under the grill with gruyere — or really any other type of cheese — on top. For instance, the Italian croque would be something like prosciutto ham, dried tomatoes, pesto and mozzarella on top of a nice slice of pain Poilâne (very popular bread in France made with whole wheat flour)!

  14. verily

    I love the croque monsieur. I don’t bother with the bechamel on top though…more gruyere works just fine. My favorite variant has you spread a little mayo on one of the slices of bread.

  15. mac

    Très bien. I suggest trying Comté as the cheese for your croques. I wrote the following when I went looking for “French” Gruyère for some ham and cheese croissants:

    “When I went to Trader Joe’s looking for cheese I had it in my mind I wanted Gruyère, which is(I was thinking at the time) a French cheese. They only had Swiss Gruyère. I absently picked up some Comté, I knew that it’s French and it should be similar. When I got home I consulted a couple of cheese books and got the straight story: Comté, or Gruyère de Comté, is French Gruyère. The Swiss and the French cheeses are produced on different sides of the same mountains(the Jura) and they are virtualy the same except for minor differences in aging. According to Steven Jenkins in his book, Cheese Primer, the superior taste of Comté could be attributed to the cheese being aged at least six months and up to a year, versus the Swiss tunring out their product after only three months. According to the Dorling Kindersley, French Cheeses, Comté is the most consumed cheese in France and it’s production is stictly controlled by an AOC designation. This all probably doesn’t mean very much when the hunk of cheese you are getting is sitting in a grocer’s cooler wrapped in plastic.”

    Sorry, I’ll head back to my “Foodies Anonymous” meeting now.

    Cheers.

  16. Don

    “I don’t bother with the bechamel on top though…more gruyere works just fine. My favorite variant has you spread a little mayo on one of the slices of bread.” (quoted from above)

    Interesting – this fellow skips the bechemel sauce, but likes a variant that uses the next closest thing to another mother sauce, hollandaise. By little extension from Croque Madam, we move rapidly towards Eggs Benedict.

    So will I try Croque Monsuer? Non. I will skip to another variant of the mother sauces, and perhaps you will start reading about my ham and cheese sammich. I’ll share the recipe here, first. ;)

  17. Nathan Palmer

    Hey! I’m fairly new to posting on the site, so if I step over any lines just let me know! Anywho, I’ve experienced frustration with grilled cheese in the past, always burning it or not cooking it enough for the cheese to melt. This all changed late one when my bff’s were over; Trent Pazsek and Gabrielle (French). This is when Gabby told me about this SCRUMPTOUS french recipe. Since then I’ve made this delicious sandwich everyday before practice. I just want to thank you guys for making this great site, I use it all the time and get a ton of recipes off of it. Thanks again!

  18. Patti

    I am so happy to have stumbled across your site. I discovered your blog recently from a post on Chowhound. Elise, I have thoroughly enjoyed your articles and recipes. I wanted to write and share my experience with your recipe for Croque Monsieur.

    I made these for dinner tonight using my homemade Honey French Bread (I cheat and use a bread machine). Oh my goodness, they were so good. They are rich, so I could only eat one-half. Good thing as I’m sure the calorie count is very high, but totally worth it.

    I also prepared Clotilde Dusoulier’s, from Chocolate Zucchini, Petites Tomatoes au Pecorino as our side dish to the sandwich. What a wonderful and pretty meal we had. Fortunately, I have leftovers for tomorrow night.

  19. Darlene

    Nathan Palmer said he had problems with the cheese not melting when making a grilled cheese (which some members of my family call — a cheese toasty — plural: cheese toasties). Here’s a tip: take a pan lid one that just covers the sandwich and place over the sandwich (on the grill) for a little while — if using a pan to fry the sandwich in make sure the lid fits inside (not on top) the pan you’re frying the grilled cheese in — it traps the heat inside and helps to melt the cheese. If making more than one sandwich — just move the lid around to give each sandwich some time under the lid.

  20. Zoe

    I made this a couple days ago and it was wonderful! And, it was surprisingly easy to make and not messy to eat (or too hard to eat with my braces). Thanks for chefjustin for recommending the rosemary flavored ham. Delicious! The only issue I have with the recipe is that 6 oz of gruyere is far too much. I had a 6 oz chunk of gruyere that I grated and it produced far more than 1 1/2 cups, so we only used about half of it and still had quite cheesy sandwiches. I’m sure 3 oz of gruyere will be plenty next time. And there will be a next time! I worked out for an hour earlier in the day to prepare for eating my croque monsieur in the evening, but it was worth it.

  21. RK

    I almost grated the gruyere in my fridge for this sandwich but it’s 10 at night and I thought my waistline and I should wait till tomorrow. Gruyere is my absolute favorite cheese ever, especially in fondue where I first encountered it, so any melted Gruyere anywhere has my heart, and my stomach.

  22. Elizabeth

    I lived in London for five weeks in 1989, doing Overseas Study in college, and the little sandwich shop down the street made their Croque Monsieur the same way as you except instead of bechamel, they topped it with thinly sliced tomatoes and broiled cheese. It was delicious!

  23. Steph

    I made these last week – they were SO good. I went to the local Italian bakery and got a loaf of bread, hot out of the oven. They sliced it thin for me…which I thought would be a problem but it toasted up really nicely without being too hard. These were delicious! I will definitely be making these again.

  24. Becky

    I first had this sandwich at Bouchon in Napa Valley, CA. I have never had a better sandwich. When I lived in SF I was lucky enough to live next to a French restaurant that served them as well. I became an addict. This recipe recreates the sandwich exactly! I am so happy that other people love it as much as I do! Everyone needs to try it before they say anything negative… it is sandwich perfection.

  25. marguerite

    I’ve been dying to try one these!! It looks great!

  26. Natalie

    I am so excited to see a fabulous recipe for Croque Monsieur! I had one when I was in Paris… without the bechamel sauce. It was great. But when I travelled to Brazil, my boyfriend and I found a secluded little restaurant in Rio that served these delicious Croques Monsieur. And since I can’t speak portuguese, but can speak french… it was one of the only things I could read off the menu. This Croque Monsieur was the most incredible, tasty, delicious sandwich that I have ever had. I cannot WAIT to try this recipe. My boyfriend even made me forward him this address so we each have it on our respective computers, in case something should happen to one! Hahaha… Thanks for the recipe! YUM!

  27. Tiffany Handshoe Bachman

    Hi Elise, I’m new to the food blog world and just recently started my own.(Lots to learn:)

    I made your croque monsieur last week for my husband and I, and it was delicious!! I am writing about it tonight on my blog, and linking to your site. I can’t wait to explore more and try many of your recipes… Thanks for sharing!

  28. Lori

    I just discovered this blog today and I am so impressed! However, I made these for lunch, and was actually a little disappointed. I have had these in France, and although this was good, it didn’t have the over the top wow factor that like the ones I had in France. I used fresh Puglese bread, black forest ham, whole milk in the bechamel. Can’t figure out what was missing, but I don’t think it was butterfat. I didn’t use any mustard because I didn’t remember that on the originals. Any ideas out there?

  29. Eric M

    Hey Lori, you may not have tasted it, but it does need mustard. Done proper, it sort of mellows into the background, but adds some substantial support.

  30. Michelle

    I just made this for dinner, and it was amazing! I halved the recipe since it was just myself and my fiancee, and the proportions were fine. I even used the toaster oven instead of lighting the oven, and the cheese melted beautifully and browned nicely with the broiler setting. I’ve seen recipes on foodnetwork.com for this, but I’m going to stick with this one since it was quite delicious. It was worth every penny to buy the Gruyere cheese and good quality ham.

  31. Mia

    HI!
    I just wanted to make sure I get this recipe correct – do I place the salt, pepper, and nutmeg, Parmesan and 1/4 cup of the grated Gruyèr mixture over the top of the bechamel sauce or INSIDE the sandwich? It’s been a while so I want to make it right – thank you!

    You add the salt etc. to the bechamel sauce, which you then pour over the sandwich. ~Elise

  32. Donna

    I made this recipe last night. It was perfect. Absolutely delicious. Will definitely make it again. Used Black Forest ham, and it was divine.

  33. Donna

    Made this AGAIN last night, but using leftover Smithfield ham from the weekend. Again, it was perfect. This has become my husband’s favorite sandwich.

  34. Melanie

    This was great! I saw this in the movie “It’s Complicated” and was dying to try it. My fiance loved it and I cant wait to try it as a Croque Madame. Thanx

  35. Karen

    Elise, I am seeing this movie for the 1st time tonight via netflix and I had to pause it to come google the recipe! Yours was the first link on the list and I even misspelled ‘Croque Monsieur’! It looks delicious. Thank you for posting it, seeing it here means I can run with the recipe and have confidence that it will taste as good as it looks.

  36. amtct

    I had never heard of Croque Monsieur until I watch “It’s Complicated”. The sandwiches looked so good and simple. I searched high and low for an authentic recipe and am very happy to have found this, along with all of the wonderful reviews. I might make some of the suggested changes, especially the rosemary ham. I’m a sucker for rosemary. I’ll be sure to report back on how my partner liked it. He loves anything cheesy, so I am sure he will like this as well!

  37. Chellspecker

    I’ve had these sandwiches in France, and fell in love. I happened to have some cave-aged Gruyère in the fridge, and was in a French mood the other night, so looked up this recipe and whipped up one of these puppies using sourdough bread and old-fashioned ham. Dennis is right, cave-aged makes a big difference. I’m curious to try it with Comté now that I know it’s basically the same cheese.

    I had mine with an endive, toasted walnut, red pear and Fourme d’Ambert salad which took the whole meal into over-the-top French cheesy territory. I would recommend pairing this sandwich with something a bit lighter, maybe a tomato soup or salad, which would be fresher as a complement. Bon appétit!

  38. Penny

    This was our Christmas brunch and it was awesome – simple yet special! The rosemary ham, real french bread, and gruyere made it the most satisfying thing in the world, with a nice merlot. Will give serious thought to daring a hint of garlic or scalion next time, and also read on Chowhound that I can freeze the leftover bechamel!

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