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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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 Awardswebsite and please vote for the Provence WineZine!)
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.
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
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.
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.