The difference between a ham and cheese sandwich and a Croque-Monsieur lies in the cheesy bechamel, a white sauce made with butter, flour, milk and cheese. Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the mood for a sandwich, I don’t exactly want to start making cheese sauce. And so, according to my motto: “A good chef is a lazy chef”, I have found a way to cheat myself into a perfect Croque-Monsieur without the need of a Bechamel. Here’s how you do it:
Mix your grated cheese with cream!
Ingredients for 2 Croque-Monsieur:
4 slices of bread (I used sprouted seed bread)
15g butter (don’t measure, just butter your bread, you’ll be fine)
2 small spoon mustard (Dijon, English, Grain, anything)
80g grated cheese (a mix of Gouda & Cheddar works well)
60g/ml whipping cream or liquid cream
2 big slices of cooked ham (or whatever else you fancy, really)
Remember you’re making 2 sandwiches. Lay your slices out on a board, butter one side and spread a little mustard on the butter. I actually keep all my bread in the freezer, as I don’t eat that much bread and don’t want it to go to waste. So I leave the butter to soften and then butter the frozen slices. That way soft bread doesn’t tear and the butter spreads evenly.
Now that you’ve buttered and mustarded (?) your bread, layer a generous amount of ham on it.
Grate your cheese, if you haven’t already done it. Any mix of hard cheeses should really work. It’s a good way to use up ends of cheese that are kicking around in your chiller. Pour the cream into the grated cheese and play with your food like a child, squish and mash until you get a weird textured paste and don’t worry if the cream oozes out a bit. Divide your cheesy paste into 4 roughly equal parts and spread a quarter each on the ham. (If that seems difficult, you could spread it on the other slice and then flip that on top of the ham, if you see what I mean.)
Cover your sandwich with the other slice of bread and now you should have 2 complete sandwiches with a layer of ham and cheese paste inside. If you also have 2 more quarters of cheese paste left over, you’ve done it right.
Spread the remaining 2 quarters of cheesy paste on top of each sandwich and bake the things in a 180C oven or toaster oven for about 10-12 minutes until the cheese looks like the picture above. Take out, leave to rest for 3 minutes, cut in half, plate like a pro and serve.
You can use any cheese, but I don’t recommend using cheeses that are too strong. Parmesan added in small quantities is fine, but a whole grated Parmesan Croque will be horrible. Try to use a good, pure cream, not one of those gelatin added “thickened” things. Double cream does not make it twice as good, in fact it doesn’t work very well at all. If it’s all you have, dilute with water.
Instead of using ham, mustard and cheese & cream, you can let your imagination run riot and see what happens. These are some of the things I’m thinking about. Haven’t tried them all, so if you do, or if you come up with different, exciting things, let me know.
- Smoked salmon, horseradish, cheese & cream cheese
- Parma ham, pesto, cheese & ricotta
- Roast chicken, cheese, cream & curry powder (Coronation Sandwich anyone?)
- Chopped up herbs; feta, cheddar & cream
- Any leftover roast vegetables; chopped garlic, pesto, cheese & cream
- Ham, garlic butter, cheese & cream