One of my favorite aspects of Parisian life is the relaxed schedule. Rather than punctuating long workdays with hasty meals, the French seem to punctuate long days of eating with a few hours of work. Granted I am biased, as my time there has been as a student or vacationer, but it’s a bias I hope to savor. I have fond memories of long lunches at sidewalk cafes, almost always eating my favorite late afternoon snack of choice: a croque monsieur. This sandwich is a relative of the American grilled cheese (much in the way the Concord is relative of a Cessna).
My children now adore Croques Monsieurs. While one can take shortcuts in making them, I highly recommend following the recipe in full.
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 Gruyere or other Swiss cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
8 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
8 oz sliced ham
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk for 2 minutes. Pour the milk into the butter/flour mixture in slow stream, whisking. Cook, while steadily whisking, until the sauce is thickened. Turn off heat and add ½ cup Gruyere, all of the Parmesan, and salt.
Assemble sandwiches as follows (bottom up), dividing ingredients evenly between four sandwiches: bottom slices of toast, ham, 1 cup Gruyere, tops slices of toast, cheese sauce, 1 cup Gruyere.
Broil 5-7 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned.