A Croque Monsieur is the French answer to the grilled cheese sandwich. And it’s pretty darn awesome.
French food gets a reputation for being complicated. I can see that. There are definitely some complex recipes. Souffle? Croissant? Yeah, I get you. Even a simple mousse au chocolat takes several steps and dirties many bowls.
On the other hand, however, French food is pretty simple, really. Bread, cheese, charcuterie? Bread and jam for breakfast? Roast chicken and potatoes? Escalivada? Those are all pretty easy and straightforward. Not to mention delicious.
So is the Croque-monsieur. This delicious comfort food is basically a dressed up grilled cheese sandwich. But, oh my! It’s so much more than that.
Its preparation takes a few more steps that stuffing bread and cheese in the panini press, but it’s worth washing a few more dishes. Totally worth it.
I was on a hunt for a good croque-monsieur in Paris, but never got one. So I’ve been making them at home instead.
What’s the difference between a croque monsieur and a croque madame?
The big difference here is an egg. Both are ham and cheese sandwiches, smothered in a white sauce, but the croque madame means a fried egg is added on top.
A few tips for croque monsieur success:
- Use bread you can easily cut. We kept it simple with white sandwich bread, but a soft loaf in general works well.
- Make the beschamel sauce ahead of time. This can be made a day or two ahead of time. Making this ahead means you can whip these up quickly!
- Toaster oven is easiest. But your broiler works as well!
Ingredients for a croque-monsieur
The ingredients are simple:
- White bread
- Gruyere cheese (you can also use Emmental or other swiss-style cheese)
- Dijon mustard – And yes, that is real French Dijon that I brought home with me! You can buy it here.*
- Ham – Good sliced deli ham, or if you have leftover ham from a Slow Cooker Ham from the Holidays
- A Beschamel sauce. This is basically a white sauce.
The irony is not lost on me that I bought white sandwich bread to make a French dish! Pain de mie, as it is called in France is a standard base for the croque-monsieur, though you can use other sandwich bread. To be honest, the local French bakery uses thick slices of batard which is really unwieldy for a fork and knife sandwich. In my mind, a croque-monsieur needs to be easily cut.
How to make beschamel sauce
The Beschamel is not hard to do. I use a double batch of this sauce as a replacement for ricotta or cottage cheese in lasagna. It’s basically a white sauce of butter, flour, and milk.
I add a few pinches of paprika, salt, and pepper to season it. Yum-O.
Here is how to make it:
Melt the butter. You want to whisk a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
Whisk in the flour. Add the flour and whisk until thick and bubbly.
Add milk. Gradually whisk in the milk, until the sauce is smooth and thickened.
Season. Whisk in the paprika. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Keep warm. While your assemble the sandwiches.
Toaster oven makes this Croque Monsieur recipe easy
If you have a toaster oven, that is the perfect device to make these sandwiches quick and easy.
I toast the bread on one side, assemble the sandwiches, and then return it to the toaster oven to melt the cheese and brown the tops. If you don’t have a toaster oven, you can use the broiler. For some reason, the toaster oven just seems easier.
Can I add an egg?
You absolutely can. Add and egg and call it a croque madame instead. Perfect breakfast for dinner meal!
Tools I use for this recipe:
- 8 slices white sandwich bread
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/8 tsp paprika
- black pepper
- Dijon mustard for spreading
- 4 oz sliced ham
- 4 oz Gruyere cheese shreddded, you can also use Emmental or other swiss-style cheese
- Toast the bread until lightly browned on one side.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk until thick and bubbly. Gradually whisk in the milk, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Whisk in the paprika. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep the sauce warm while your assemble the sandwiches.
- Lay four slices of bread, toasted side down on a broiler pan. Brush each one with Dijon mustard, to taste. Lay one slice of ham on each piece . Divide 1/2 cup cheese among the four sandwiches. Top with the second slice of bread, toastier side up. Divide the sauce among the four sandwiches, spreading it over the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the sandwiches.
- Broil until the cheese is melted and the tops are bubbly and brown, five minutes or more in my toaster oven. Watch it carefully; yours may be different. Serve immediately.