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
- 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
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.