Hi Foody Friends!
I can't speak a bit of French, but I have a sister who can speak French. Ever since I was little, she would always say, "I can speak French, Parles-tu français?" Here's the kicker, that's the only bit of French she knew. I can't count how many times over my course of growing up with this woman, has she said "Parles-tu francais." Not to mention how many times I told her, " No, I don't know how to speak French!" LOL.
Since French is not an everyday language in my home, the next logical thing to do is to cook it. The Croque Monsieur. Fabulous ham and cheese sandwich with a Bechamel sauce. For you who don't know what Bechamel is, it's a white sauce, generally made with a roux of butter and flour, then cooked in milk. Cheese is added to make a tasty sauce. Most common cheese used is Gruyère, which is in the Swiss family. The word "Croque" which means "crunch" and "Monsieur" which means "mister" was first introduced in 1910 in French Cafe's as a snack. Another version of this sandwich, is the Croque Madame, which is served with a fried egg or poached egg on top. The egg represents an old fashion woman's hat, which is when the Croque Madame was born. By the way, there is also a Croque McDo sandwich. That's correct, it's served in McDonald's locations throughout France. Well, I guess the Croque McDo is like the Big Mac here. Big Mac attacks in the US and McDo attacks in France! LOL
Over the years different variations of this sandwich was made. The Croque Bolognese, which is made with a Bolognese sauce or the Croque Senor which Salsa is added to the sandwich. You can put a grass skirt on and make The Croque Hawaiian and add a slice of Pineapple or the Croque Gagnet which is made with Andouille Sausage. The list goes on and on. You can get very creative with this sandwich, as with most foods, but I think the original has to be the best! So, no I did not make the original. LOL. I did, however, make a few small changes. I used a spicier ham, added tomato, and since I have a newborn plus two more, I cheated on the Bechamel and use Gruyère and Swiss to top my sandwich. By the silence during dinner, I will say it was a hit!
Now that you got a history lesson on a French ham and cheese sandwich, are you ready to make your own? It's a great Friday night dinner or any night of the week. I usually pair a nice wine with my meals, but since I was out of wine, I had a nice ice-cold Coors Lite. Check out the recipe below and next time you are in France, please don't say "Parles-tu Francais," most likely you'll get kicked out!
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese
8oz. block of Gruyère, shredded
2 tomatoes sliced
1 loaf hard French bread ( I used the round loaf near the deli counter)
Mustard is optional. Best is Grey Poupon...but of course!
Slice bread about 1/2" thick, butter and grill both sides, top bread with a layer of ham, layer of Swiss, tomato, then top your sandwich with shredded Gruyère and any leftover Swiss. Put under the broiler until cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve open-faced.