French cuisine is among the most elevated and elegant in the world. So even the most confident home chefs might feel intimidated by preparing French food. And while some classic French recipes are more of a challenge, there are also simple, accessible ways to visit France through your palette. The croque monsieur is a great place to start!
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about the famous sandwich, from what is in a croque monsieur to where it comes from to (of course) how you can prepare and enjoy one yourself.
What Is a Croque Monsieur?
A croque monsieur is a ham and cheese sandwich that’s been toasted to perfection and made even more delectable with bechamel sauce. We’ll cover the specific ingredients that go into this tasty sandwich shortly, but for now, think of it as the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich.
Croque Monsieur Origin
So, who was the originator of this ooey, gooey delight? This probably won’t come as a surprise, but the sandwich has its roots in France. The phrase “croque monsieur” translates roughly into English as “a gentleman’s sandwich,” since it comes from the French words for “bite” and “mister.”
The croque monsieur was featured on menus in Parisian restaurants starting around 1910. It gained further visibility when it was mentioned in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, published in 1918.
Since then, the sandwich has only become more beloved around the world, with many chefs putting their own special twist on the classic recipe. Speaking of which…
Croque Monsieur Recipe
At its most basic, a croque monsieur is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich—but a few extra steps will transform it into your perfect bite. Let’s talk about how to make one.
Croque Monsieur Ingredients
To make the simplest version of a croque monsieur using this recipe from Recipe Tin Eats, you’ll need:
For bechamel sauce:
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup cream
- 1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 ½ tbsp all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 pinch white pepper
- ⅛ tsp nutmeg
- 4 slices of bread (preferably sourdough—or make your own bread!)
- 8 slices of Swiss or Gruyere cheese
- 4 oz ham slices
- 4 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ cup Gruyere cheese
- 3 tbsp parmesan
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Step 1: Make Your Bechamel Sauce
Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat until they are mixed and steaming, but not boiling. Set the mixture aside.
In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, turn the heat down to low. Add flour while stirring constantly. Stir for about three minutes.
After three minutes, slowly add the milk and cream mixture, still stirring. Season with nutmeg, pepper, and salt. Mix the sauce for about 30 seconds until it thickens into a spreadable texture. Use a whisk to remove any lumps. Take the mixture off the heat and set it aside.
Step 2: Assemble Your Sandwich
Spread half of your finished bechamel sauce over both sides of each slice of bread. Think of it like a really fancy butter.
Layer on cheese, ham, and mustard like you would any other sandwich. The more Dijon mustard you spread between the layers, the more delicious the final product will be.
Close the sandwiches with the other slices of bread.
Step 3: Pan Fry Your Sandwich
Place your assembled sandwiches in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat along with melted butter. Cook for two minutes, then flip to the other side for another two minutes.
Step 4: Bake and Broil
Spread the remaining bechamel sauce on the top slice of bread in your sandwiches. Sprinkle with remaining Gruyere and parmesan.
Bake in an oven preheated to 390℉ for 15 minutes. Switch your oven to the broiler for about three minutes. Remove the sandwiches when the cheese on top is golden and bubbling.
Now, you’re ready to enjoy the ultimate croque monsieur!
Croque Monsieur Variations
Baked Croque Monsieur
If you’d like to, you can skip the saucepan altogether! A baked monsieur goes straight into an oven preheated to 430℉ and stays there for 10 to 15 minutes. For extra crisp, pop the broiler on for a few minutes.
Keto Croque Monsieur
If you stick to a keto diet, you can enjoy the croque experience by using keto-friendly bread, English muffins, or wraps.
Croque Monsieur vs. Monte Cristo
A Monte Cristo sandwich is a croque monsieur with a little something extra. To make one, dip your complete croque monsieur into an egg batter, then deep fry it. Add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to balance the savory flavors with some sweet!
Croque Monsieur vs. Croque Madame
Want one more mouth-watering twist on your new favorite sandwich? Try the croque madame! All you need is a poached or fried egg on top of your finished sandwich. Bon appetit!
Enjoy Your Croque!
You may have just met your favorite sandwich. See? French food isn’t so far out of reach, after all.
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