Croque-Monsieur: The Incriminating Ham Sandwich

5th Oct 2006

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I'll have to admit the real reason I bought a 10 pound ham , beyond "I'd never done it before" cop-out, was to have enough meat to make as many ham sandwiches as I could possibly stomach in a week.  Sure, that Boar's Head Black Forest ham can stuff a hero, but thick slabs of real, brown sugar encrusted ham exist on an entirely different plane of pleasure.  And for three days I had enormous sandwiches smeared with an excess of Dijon mustard, real crisp pickles, and swiss cheese actually from Switzerland.  It was a glorious week.

Unfortunately, that doesn't make for much culinary excitement, and by the third lunch I had tired of it myself and realized I needed a fresh approach to this sandwich institution.  But I couldn't really figure out exactly what a ham sandwich needed.  I could add some roast pork and make a Cuban, but I didn't need to be roasting any other pig products.  I could make an open face sandwich.  Maybe I could put come tooth picks in each sandwich.   It was about this time I started to bore myself to death.

Then Abby caught wind of croque-monsieur , an affordable Parisian classic.  It's essentially just a ham sandwich with a cheese sauce, all cooked to a golden brown.  The sandwich is such a staple that the government has regulated a set price for the sandwich, making it more affordable.  Since the low price dissuades owners from using the best ingredients, illegal, high-quality croque-monsieurs have popped up around the city, possibly making this the most scandalous ham sandwich on earth.

So, of course, I needed to make one.

This could all be a glorious lie, and if you happen to live in Paris and know the truth about the croque-monsieur, I would sure like to know.

Fortunately, making this in your own home is less incriminating, though it does take some time.  And by the end you'll be wondering why you need to spend this much of your life constructing a ham sandwich.  But they are decadent in a way a regular ham sandwich simply can't compete with.

Every single recipe I looked at was different, so I wouldn't worry too much about making an authentic one, though there might be a proper way.  Most do suggest using Gruyere, but I all I had was swiss.  There also seems to be an opinion about whether the sauce goes on top or inside the sandwich.  I choose the outside for no particular reason.  You can also fry and egg and place it on top and call the sandwich a Croque-Madame, but that sounded like too much excitement to me.



Makes four sandwiches.

  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of swiss cheese chopped
  • 4 slices of swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
  • 8 slices bread
  • Dijon mustard
  • a pound or two of ham slices (whatever it takes)

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa .

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Heat the butter over medium heat.  When it's melted throw in the flour and whisk until thickened.

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Remove from heat and add the milk, cheeses, salt, and pepper.  Whisk vigorously until combined.

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Toast the slices of bread.  Then construct the sandwiches. Spread the mustard on the slices of bread, then add the slices of ham and cheese.

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Place the sandwiches onto a baking sheet.  Pour a little of the cheese mixture on top of each sandwich.   Turn on the broiler.

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Place in the broiler until they slightly brown on top.  This all depends on your broiler.  In mine it took less than minute.  I'd check every 30 seconds or so.  I came dangerously close to the edge.

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Serve whole or slice in two at whatever angle you deem fit.  This definitely more of a fork and knife sandwich, though the adventurous can dive right in.


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