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Monday, October 17, 2005

Croque Monsieur

Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with béchamel sauce, tomato soup

This is another one of our old stand-bys, a favorite dinner. When Lane makes croque monsieur sandwiches he dispenses with the béchamel sauce and just uses mayonnaise. But I love the high note of nutmeg peeking out from the heavy cheese and ham.

I got my recipe for croque monsieur from a Times article long ago. A two-sided electric gridle will make this recipe especially easy, but we don’t have one and do just as well. I have the trusty cast iron griddle as well as an old steel griddle my brother picked up at a garage sale in Salt Lake. If you don’t have two griddles you could 1. Buy one or two cheap ones in Chinatown or 2. Try the broiler, though I’ve never done cheese sandwiches under a broiler so I can’t vouch for that technique or 3. Using one griddle just flip the sandwich part way through cooking.

To make the béchamel sauce melt one tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan. Then whisk in one tablespoon of flour. Cook for a minute, and then add 2/3 cup milk. Stir until thickened and season with salt and freshly grated nutmeg to taste. I like to use at least a teaspoon of nutmeg to make sure if finds its way through the meat and cheese.

Heat both griddles. You’ll want the “bottom” griddle on low and the “top” griddle hotter, since it will not remain on the heat source. Meanwhile, spread one of both sides of bread with the béchamel and then place one or two thin slices of ham with a slice (or some grated) cheese. Gruyere is traditional and will send you to a high plane of bliss. But I had a small episode of amnesia in front of the cheese section at the coop today, and couldn’t remember gruyere. So I picked up some emmanthaler instead, which was also good; after all, it’s Swiss. Put the sandwich together (at the risk of being obvious, the sides with the béchamel go on the inside).

The Times has you brush each outer side with melted butter, but that’s not necessary. I usually melt some butter in the bottom grill and then spread soft butter on the tops of the sandwiches. Then I place the second, pre-heated griddle on top to smash the sandwich a little. Keep an eye on the sandwich while it cooks.

As for the tomato soup, we always have it from a box! Imagine organic creamy tomato soup has a bright flavor and is not filled with weird things that do not belong in tomato soup. A big improvement over your typical canned. (But the creamed tomatoes I wrote about a while back would also go well with croque monsieur.) We like this soup so much we often eat it ungarnished, but today I threw in some chopped tarragon.

This was especially good after Jasper and I came in from playing outdoors. What a relief to have some dry weather. Last week, in case you hadn’t heard, it rained for seven straight days. That’s right, like something out of the Bible. It was so wet we never made it out to the playground. Finally, just in time for the weekend, the rain stopped.

I frittered away our morning on laundry and grocery shopping, so we didn’t get out to play until after Jasper’s nap. He’s still napping on the late side, around three. So it was around five when we got out. I bought coffee beans at Gorilla, where you can get the most heavenly free-trade, locally-roasted beans imaginable. Then we went to a playground we rarely visit and played until it got cold and dark. It was fun, and novel after our long, hot summer, to come home with chilled hands in the dark. Made me feel cozy, especially knowing what we were having for dinner.

2 comments:

Janet M. Kincaid said...

Adriana,

If you don't have a two-sided griddle, you can also take two pans--one slightly smaller in circumference than the other--and heat both on the stove. Using the larger pan, place your sandwich in the bottom. Take the smaller pan, which has been heating on an adjacent burner (choose a back burner, if you can, so you avoid accidentally burning yourself) and place it on top of the sandwich in the larger pan and weigh it down with a heavy object (a brick wrapped in tin foil, for example.) This has the same effect as a two sided griddle.

Janet

Swizzies said...

MMMM...love the boxed soups - they have so many yummy lovely ones here, but for some reason, mostly in France. They're much harder to find mere kilometers away in either Swizzyland or Deutschland. My favorite is the 'Indian' soup - which is a curry soup with some lentils in it. I always add in more (oh-so-convenient precooked, canned) lentils (also mostly available in France - they really do eat better there, no joke), spice up the soup with a little Vindaloo seasoning and then eat it with a bit of plain (delicious, full-fat) yogurt on top. YUM.