I love a good sandwich. Specifically, I love a good Croque Monsieur. I’ve been thinking about making one since I got back from France this summer where I had not the best Croque Monsieur I have ever had but a pretty darned tasty one at Café Marly, overlooking the Pyramide du Louvre.
Basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce, (no, it’s not JUST a grilled cheese sandwich with ham as many people seem to interpret it) it’s buttery and cheesy and most definitely a once-in-a-while treat… And therein lies the problem with Croques Monsieurs – they are just too tasty and no matter how hard you try, you can’t just eat a half a one. So my mission was, as I am wont to do with many dishes you see on this blog, to minify this.
As soon as I sat down to try to figure something interesting out (I didn’t just want to cut the slices of bread into four and call it a day), I remembered that a few years ago, I posted a grown up grilled cheese and tomato sandwich – based on a dish I first ate at the legendary Uraidla Aristologist restaurant (in the Adelaide Hills, where I was fortunate enough to dine a few times when I was way too young to really appreciate it). According to the State Library of South Australia website, The Aristologist was an innovative restaurant using fresh local produce ‘Tuscan style’ in the Adelaide hills in the 1980s and early 1990s, with chef Jennifer Hillier and Michael Symons, who wrote the interesting “One continuous picnic: a history of eating in Australia” (Adelaide: Duck Press, 1982). Something about fashioning bread into little cubes, brushing them with butter and baking them until crispy and then filling them with something delicious is a failproof recipe for success. And I’m pleased to report that it works for Croque Monsieurs as well, solving the dilemma of how to minify them in an interesting fashion.
My mum has the recipe for the “Cheese Filled Bread Cases” that she ripped out of a magazine way back in the 1990s and both the previous and this recipe are based on that. In trying to find somewhere to attribute, I did come across a very similar recipe for bread cases filled with béchamel sauce (and a cabernet paste – how intriguing!) but nowhere can I find the original recipe to link to. In any case, I have changed up the quantities slightly so the sauce is thicker than a béchamel (and the original recipe) – I like the thicker consistency for this type of 1-2 bite hors d’oeuvre.
I used the Ace Organic White Oval loaf but you can use any dense white loaf with a thin crust for this one.
- For the bread cases:
- 1 Ace Bakery Organic White Oval loaf, or any dense white loaf with thin crusts
- 125g butter, melted
- For the filling:
- 40g butter
- 40 flour
- 175mls milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 70g Gruyère or Swiss cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 slices ham, finely diced
- To make the bread cases:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F.
- Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Slice crusts and ends off the bread to make the loaf rectangular.
- Cut approximately four thick slices then cut each slice into 4 even-sized cubes.
- Hollow out the centre of each cube (you can cut a square out of the top of the cube with kitchen scissors then scoop out the middle) to form a space for the filling.
- Brush each side of the cubes with the melted butter and bake for approximately 10 minutes until the cases are golden brown (keep an eye on them - they might be ready faster).
- Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.
- To make filling:
- Bring the milk to a boil over high heat.
- Meanwhile in a separate pan, melt the butter, then add flour and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and pour in the boiling milk, a little at a time, whisking to ensure a smooth consistency until the mixture thickens and all the milk is incorporated.
- Return to medium heat and, stirring with a wooden spoon, add the egg yolk, butter and cheese. Reserve a little of the cheese to sprinkle on top.
- Continue to stir vigorously until smooth and thick.
- Fill and bake the bread cases:
- Preheat oven to 400˚F.
- Place a pinch of the finely diced ham into the bottom of each bread case. Reserve a little to sprinkle on top of the cases.
- Top with the cheese sauce (you might have a little extra, don't try to use it all just for the sake of it) and a sprinkle of the reserved cheese and diced ham.
- Place the filled cases on the baking tray and bake until the filling is bubbling and golden on the top, approximately 5-7 minutes. If you like the top a little more golden, you can finish them under the broiler for a couple of minutes.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Bon appétit.
The problem? Bet you can’t eat just one 😉
WORLDWIDE giveaway: Clotilde Dusoulier’s The French Market Cookbook (she of Chocolate & Zucchini). Closes Wednesday September 25th at 6pm EST.