When I started making this famous French sandwich one night and thinking of its inspiration — my friend and former classmate Sarah’s blog Edible Witness — I was reminded of a very fond sandwich memory of when I attended school with Sarah in Toronto. Having just started graduate school, budgets and studying meant that socializing on a Saturday night was rare. Of course that quickly changed, but in the early days, we took our mountain of reading very seriously. So, it goes that I met Sarah and Mike for lunch one Saturday and will never forget three things from that day: the amazing booth that’s Sarah’s apartment had, the introduction to what would become one of my fave T.O. spots, Terroni, and the process of conversation becoming friendship.
When Sarah posted a recipe for a Croque Monsieur, I knew a solo supper would be raised a few notches with the bechamel-oozing bistro classic. There’s technique in the making of the roux, but just keep stirring and remember to not let it brown, the nutty aroma of cooked butter and flour (almost like fresh baked shortbread) is a sure sign you’re there.
Dining companion: The Trip
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup hot milk (warmed in the microwave a minute or so)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
4 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
6 thin slices of Black Forest ham
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toast bread on a baking sheet for about five minutes and set aside.
Melt butter on low heat, then add flour and whisk vigorously to form a roux. Stir constantly for a few minutes until the roux begins to absorb the butter and the flour cooks. Add the hot milk, whisking in gradually to avoid lumps. Heat and stir until sauce thickens (coats back of spoon), then stir in salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat and stir in half the cheese.
To assemble sandwiches, spread mustard on one half of sandwich, then top with three slices of ham, some grated cheese and about a tablespoon of the sauce. Place other slice of bread on top, then spread with more bechamel and sprinkle with cheese. Repeat.
Bake sandwiches in oven for about five minutes, then broil for a few minutes until tops lightly brown and bubble.