6.04.2016

Mr. & Mrs.

It is the perfect Memorial Day weekend in Tucson. The sun is shining, the sky is excruciatingly blue, and it isn't too hot. In fact, it's downright pleasant and much cooler than anyone dreams of for this holiday weekend in the desert.

For some reason, I have been wanting to make a loaf of Pain de Mie again. There are so many ways to use it - Toasted Bread Boxes, may be my favorite. But this weekend I have been craving a Croque Monsieur, or perhaps a Croque Madame, since I have wonderful fresh eggs from my friend, Nancy.

This is a very classic French bistro dish, a recipe dating to the early years of the twentieth century. Perhaps Proust had a Croque Monsieur before he nibbled that now-legendary madeleine. I tend to order this flavorful sandwich whenever I see it on a menu.

I had my first when I was in high school, an enthusiastic member of my school's French Club. We gathered on occasion to make and share «un repas». Memorable recipes made with the club included French onion soup, pâtè de campagne, and a fantastic Croque Monsieur | Croque Madame. You know - typical teen after-school snacks.

Mark remembers his first Croque Madame, as well, during his first visit to Paris. We had spent the day exploring Montmartre and, afterwards - a bit peckish - sought food. At the foot of the hill, not too far from Place Pigalle, we found a typical bistro and ordered a Croque Madame for Mark and a Monsieur for me.

Sometimes, when we are in the car, we reminisce about our most memorable meals together. Very rarely will these memories take us to fancy Michelin-starred restaurants; more often the memories take us to a place in a garden, a farm, a quiet little restaurant, or unassuming bistro. This simple meal of comforting sandwiches was definitely memorable for us both, nibbling our lunch in the shadows of the Moulin Rouge.

The ingredients are few for this dish - pain de mie (I really think the bread must be pain de mie – and never sour dough; anyone in France want to weigh in?), ham, cheese, béchamel sauce, and mustard. There are (if you look online) hundreds of recipes, each with a slight variation: the cheese in the béchamel or the cheese on top; mustard on both pieces of bread, or just one side; toast the bread, grill the sandwich, bake it, broil it, or a hybrid. Basically, they all work!

The difference between a Croque Monsieur and a Croque Madame is merely the addition of a fried egg to the latter.

Here is my recipe for a Croque Monsieur or Madame, enjoyed today with a 2015 Domaine Tour Campanets rosé from Coteaux d'Aix en Provence. To learn more about the wine and pairing it with food, visit the Provence WineZine. (Great news - the Provence WineZine has been nominated for several Wine Blog Awards - one of which is for best photography! Visit the Wine Blog Awards website and please vote for the Provence WineZine!)

Bon Appétit!

~ David


Croque Monsieur | Croque Madame

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
salt & freshly ground black pepper
pinch freshly-grated nutmeg
softened butter
8 slices pain de mie
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 slices of baked ham, each about ¾ of an ounce
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
4 eggs, optional

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add all the milk at once, and whisk constantly until very thick. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.

Spread 4 slices of pain de mie each with 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard, then sprinkle each with 1/2 cup of grated Gruyère cheese, and top with a slice of ham. Place the remaining slices of pain de mie on top. Butter tops and bottoms of the sandwich and cook slowly on a flat griddle until lightly golden on both sides.

Preheat the broiler, and place rack 4-5 inches from the heat. Place sandwiches on a cookie sheet – or in gratin dishes for serving - and spoon about 1/2 cup of the béchamel sauce on top of each sandwich, letting it run down the sides. Sprinkle the 4 sandwiches with the remaining 1/2 cup Gruyère cheese.

Slide the sandwiches under the broiler and remove when golden brown on top. Serve immediately. Steamed asparagus or a salad makes a nice side.

Serves 4.

To make a Croque Madame, simply top the sandwich with a sunny-side-up fried egg.




35 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Merci! You and Dave should make these!

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    2. I'll put that on the list of teaching David to cook while I recover...I can get the right bread at La Baguette, correct??

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    3. Alas, no - La Baguette refuses to make it! Café Français (Palomino Plaza) makes it! Or, he can use Trader Joe's Gourmet White - that works work pretty well.

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  2. I love both croques. There are, as you say, a million ways to perfect this perfect sandwich. My own personal secret is to mix the mustard into the béchemel. GREG

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    1. Wonderful idea, Greg! I debated about adding a wee bit of cognac to the béchamel!

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  3. Looks and sounds quite divine, David. If I 'hide' the mustard, will P notice? ;-)

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  4. Hi David, oh these sound heavenly, been working outside today and worked up quite the appetite. I love the addition of the egg, always makes everything taste even better.

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    1. I agree, Cheri - I love egg on just about anything, especially pizza!

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  5. I was getting more and more hungry as I scrolled down your photos, David! It's 11pm and I could go for a Croque Monsieur right now.

    My daughter ordered one in Paris not even two weeks ago, but I had to go for a warm goat cheese salad instead. So sad to see that the rain has continued until now (it was pouring when we were there!)

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    1. Christina - I cannot go to Paris without having one. And I know they can be made with regular sandwich bread, but (for me) it has to be pain de mie! I have heard that the French are even making them with sourdough now! Quel horreur!

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  6. I have not had a Madame ot a Monsieur for ages and certainly never in France. What lovely Montmartre memories

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    1. We have had such lovely times in Paris, Paola - I always look forward to each visit!

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  7. Your pain is beautiful, as are the croques. I' with you - we've had some very special meals at upscale or Michelin starred restaurants, some run by famous chefs, etc. But our favorites have been picnics, bistros and pubs, but especially dining outside, even in crazy little alleys!

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    1. Mimi - I think I am one of very few foodies who doesn't research restaurants before I go. Instead, I check out the markets, what the local cheese are, and (of course) what wines are best!

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  8. Ah, you're taking me back to my Paris days with this post. Sitting on a bistro terrace and watching the world go by...

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    1. Ahhh,,, Frank - we should all be in Paris now watching the word go by (And the Seine diminishing!)...

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  9. Divine. This has to be one of my favourite things. The madame or monsieur - I'm not fussy. Most of the ones I've tried have been in Sydney, but that one I ate in Paris many years ago at some beaten up cafe in an arrondissement I can't remember, stands out the most. It was as stodgy as hell - but I loved it.

    I've never made one at home, but now that I have your recipe, that could well change.

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    1. John - stodgy can be the perfect description for a Croque! I judge mine on the lightness, for sure. (If, indeed, a Croque can ever be "light!")

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  10. David, you have this spot on. When I worked for 10 years next to a street full of bistros, cafés and brasseries, my colleagues would laugh, since I'd order a croque monsieur and a pot of tea. Yes, your rosé would have been better but I had to work in the afternoon too, I suppose! The pain de mie bread is definitely the ONLY to use. You know, I was planning on a completely different dinner but after reading your post and seeing the tempting photos, you've turned me over to Croque Madame mode. As it's the evening I'll quite gladly give in to that rosé - merci beaucoup. Oh, and the only difference is that here it always comes with a side of dressed green salad (lettuce) but your asparagus takes it to another level. Very classy as ever!

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    1. Now you are making me want another one fro dinner tonight, too, Jill! Sadly, I only have one slice of pain de mie left... and not enough time to bake more for dinner. Tant pis. I hope you enjoy yours - and the rosé!

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  11. Dear David, nice treat the Mr as well as the Mrs - actually I should be making some for the kids and us soon. Maybe for a light lunch al fresco with a little summer garden salad on the side - if it ever stops raining around these parts!
    Liebe Grüße an Mark und dich!
    Andrea & Co.

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    1. Oh, Andrea, we would love to trade you some of our sunshine for some of your rain! :) I hope you get some nice weather soon for an outdoor lunch!

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  12. I used to make these all the time when we had the restaurant! I never tried one though, even though we made some with turkey instead of ham.
    Your fried egg is perfect! We have quite a few bistros here in Boulder, if you ever visit, we'll go. Trace and I really enjoy our lunches/dinners there. And I think one of them has the Croque Monsieur.

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    1. Wow, Nazneen - I don't think I knew that you had a restaurant! How cool - and I like the Croques with turkey as much as with ham, too. What isn't better with an egg on top?

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    2. PS - we will get there soon, I promise!

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  13. You made my evening David, what great memories of Paris. I always go for the onion soup when I first arrive.

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    1. Do you know, Gerlinde, I have never had onion soup in France! I think I need to correct this glaring culinary error.

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  14. David, I've been to Paris 4 times, but only brief stops to catch connecting flights to other places. I've never been out in the city! Still on the "to-do" list. :0) The Croque Madame looks absolutely luscious served with that egg on top. Looks amazing and your bread is beautiful too.

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    1. Oh, Marcelle - you really have to get to Paris soon! Such an incredibly beautiful city. Thanks fro the nice comments on the sandwiches and bread. I love pain de mie - makes the best toast and grilled sandwiches ever.

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  15. David, beautiful sandwich! I love to make my sourdough bread in a pain de mie tin minus the lid for sandwiches, and I think it would be wonderful in this. I don't know whether or not it would be "authentic," but it would be delicious! Of course, the bread you used is as well, so ... Ooh, I'm hungry now!

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    1. Delicious is the most important things, Jean! Although the texture of the bread, for me, is why I think I love them so much!

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  16. Mmmmmm! My first Croque Madame was a bit of a surprise. I ordered it on a high school trip to France without knowing what it was, but of all the food I ate, it really stuck with me over the years! Lovely photos! And yes, I think you've made everyone hungry!

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    1. That is funny, Inger - I once ordered a sandwich in Germany the same way and it ended up being a type of liver loaf with an egg on top. I loved it, but I am not sure many 14-year-old American boys would have!

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