One of my favorite sandwiches, after the simple yet delicious traditional grilled cheese sandwich*, is the Croque Monsieur. I came across this recipe when two dear friends gifted me with a panini press and a panini recipe book some years ago for my birthday. Little did they know that the sandwich featured on the cover was one of my favorites!
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
- French bread or other firm, white country-style bread, 4 slices, each about 1/2 inch thick (I personally like to use a loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread)
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 pound Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced (if your deli doesn’t have Gruyère to be sliced on the spot, you can buy the block and slice it at home, which is what I did)
- 3 ounces Black Forest ham, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp fresh chives, snipped
BÉCHAMEL CHEESE SAUCE
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the flour and cook, whisking, for 1 minute to make a smooth paste.
- Stir in the mustard, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, then slowly whisk in the milk.
- Cook, whisking, until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 2 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese until melted.
- Keep warm until ready to use. (I recommend whisking every so often so that the sauce doesn’t thicken/curdle.)
- Preheat the sandwich grill.
- Place the bread slices on a work surface and brush 1 side of each with the melted butter.
- Turn and spread the unbuttered sides with the mustard.
- Building the sandwich: bread with mustard, cheese, ham, chives, cheese, bread with mustard. (The actual directions made sandwich-building sound way more complicated that it should be. The buttered sides will always be on the outside, since the sandwich is going on the panini press, and the mustard will be on the inside parts of the bread.)
- Place the closed panini in the grill, close the top plate, and cook until the bread is golden and toasted, and the cheese is melted, 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.
- Transfer the finished panini to a small baking sheet. Spoon the sauce over the sandwiches, then place under the broiler 3-4 inches from the heat source.
- Broil, watching carefully to prevent burning, until the sauce is bubbly and flecked with brown, about 1 minute.
- Transfer to plates and serve right away.
The ingredients listed are for two sandwiches, so I usually increase the ingredients because I always make it for more than two people. Given that it’s a ham and cheese sandwich smothered with béchamel sauce, this dish leans towards the heavy side, so I recommend serving it with a simple salad, such as greens with a lemon vinaigrette.
P.S. *For those who are curious, the simple grilled cheese sandwich I refer to consists of sliced bread with all sides buttered and American cheese, cooked in a pan.